Every now and then my weekly meal planning doesn't quite pan out. I try to plan for dinner 6 nights per week and then leave one day available for going out or any other random event that might come up and change things around. Last week was a rare occurrence where every single meal stayed as planned, and I was home on a Friday night with no plans, no husband, and an empty refrigerator.
When I plan my meals, I try to stick with a basic plan of 1 starch, 1 protein and 2 vegetables with random cheeses, spices, herbs, and other add-ins. I was finally able to experience the exact reason I planted my garden so many months ago: to be able to walk outside, pick fresh produce, bring it in the house, mix it with some pantry staples, and create a healthy dinner for zero dollars. Of course it's not completely free, but by having items in the pantry that I stock up on when they're on sale means this dinner added nothing to my weekly grocery shopping bill.
I've got about 30 eggplant growing right now on my 4 plants, and they're all pretty well spaced out so I won't have 30 ready for picking at once. One of my favorite, and most common eggplant recipes, is Eggplant Parmesan. While it's delicious, it's also a little high in calories, fat, and takes quite a while to make if you press the eggplant, bread, fry, and bake. I wanted something lighter, easier, and faster for my dinner.
Though I'm not Italian, I grew up in New York where we ate at Italian restaurants often, and my mom cooks wonderful real Italian food. My mind immediately went to Italian flavors when I found a can of cannelini beans, diced tomatoes and a box of pasta in the pantry. I also have some gorgeous basil growing outside, and thought it would be the perfect finishing touch on the dish. At times, I think I could be vegan... but when I'm always reaching for a sprinkle of cheese or dollop of yogurt on most dinners, I realize that it just isn't going to happen. However, as long as my cheeses are organic, I can feel good about eating it and supporting the businesses. The only cheese I had on hand was goat cheese, and it was fantastic!
Tips and Trades:
-Substitute any cheese you have on hand, such as ricotta salata, mozzarella, or Parmesan.
-Don't have eggplant growing in your yard? Try using zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, or any vegetable
One-Skillet Eggplant, Tomato and Cannelini Pasta Toss
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 medium eggplant, peeled (if desired) and diced in 1" cubes (about 2 c.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (mine were with basil and oregano)
2 c. vegetable stock
1 c. whole wheat pasta, any short cut
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
2 c. or 1 15 oz. can cannelini beans, drained
10 basil leaves
1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese
Heat a deep skillet over medium heat.
Add EVOO, eggplant, garlic and onion, season with salt and pepper.
Sauté for 5 minutes, until vegetables caramelize on the edges and begin to soften.
Turn heat to high, add diced tomatoes and stock, stir well and bring to a simmer.
Add pasta, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 12 minutes.
Uncover, add beans, stir and heat through.
Check for pasta's doneness, cook longer if necessary, and add stock or water if necessary.
Spoon into dishes, top with basil chiffonade and crumbled cheese.