Plus a bonus recipe for sizzled eggplant.
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By Tejal Rao
I showed up at a friend’s place over the weekend with a pint of Sungold tomatoes and a handful of purple Chinese eggplants, knowing we’d turn it into something delicious for dinner.
We didn’t look at a recipe, but kept the idea of pasta alla Norma in mind. We roughly cubed and pan-fried the eggplant until it was golden brown and very tender, with some crisp edges of skin. Instead of making a proper tomato sauce, we let the Sungolds slump away in a hot pan with a bit of sliced garlic and olive oil, just for a few minutes, then mixed in a big, juicy grated tomato. We tossed hot pasta with the fried eggplant, that quick tomato sauce, some ripped basil leaves, lots of lemon zest and some grated hard cheese — a dreamy summer dinner.
Grating good tomatoes is one of my favorite summer hacks, a shortcut to a sauce, or a base for dressings and marinades. Ali Slagle has a recipe for tomato-butter pasta that might win you over, if you’re not already in the habit of grating summer tomatoes. She also grates butter and garlic, mixing them with the tomato pulp, then adds hot pasta. The butter melts into the tomato, and the result is a fresh, raw sauce that’s almost no work at all.
Grated tomato is so light that it isn’t exactly a substitute for a long-simmered tomato sauce. But that means it can do things that a more intense sauce can’t! For example, grated tomato can soak into a piece of bread, as in pan con tomate, or bathe pieces of browned paneer, as in my mash-up dish, paneer con tomate.
It can even dress vegetables. Kay Chun makes a delicious marinade with grated tomatoes, capers and their brine, vinegar and chopped shallots. Her recipe calls for Swiss chard and lentils, but you could apply the same principles to arugula and white beans, beet greens and chickpeas — whatever you have around.
I’ve used a sharply seasoned grated tomato dressing to dress raw cucumbers. And it’s delicious on a heap of raw corn, just sliced off the cob, with herbs. The only requirement when you’re grating tomatoes: decent tomatoes and generous seasoning.
Go to the recipe.
Tomato-Marinated Greens and Beans Toast
Go to the recipe.
Pan Con Tomate
Go to the recipe.
One More Thing
I know we had a bit of an eggplant extravaganza recently, but this is important. Hetty McKinnon has a new recipe for what is objectively one of the world’s greatest eggplant dishes — liang ban qie zi, the Shanghainese steamed eggplant covered with raw ginger, garlic and scallions.
At the last minute, you heat some oil and pour it over the top so it sizzles, and that flash of heat makes the aromatics even more fragrant. Warm, cold, on its own, or with rice, I cannot emphasize it enough: This dish is a dream.
And if you don’t have a proper steamer, don’t be put off! You can use a wire trivet, if you have one and it fits. Or you can take a piece of aluminum foil, scrunch it up and snake it across the bottom of the pot. Anything food safe that will hold the eggplant above a bit of simmering water will do!
Thanks for reading The Veggie, and see you next week.
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