Live from the NEW Eat it. Drink it. Blog!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Finding balance...through pasta??

I, probably like many of you, struggle with balance. Balancing work and home, balancing eating well and enjoying food. Balancing our social life with our never-ending love of relaxing. It's all a big game, a big balancing act. Working from home for most of the week makes this so much harder (a thing anyone who has never worked from home probably does not believe.)

Figuring out how to maintain balance is something that most often escapes me. I try hard, every day. I'm sure we all do. But how do you find that perfect balance? How do you turn off your brain at the appropriate moments? Hell, I can barely sleep certain nights, lying there, exhausted, trying to figure out how to stop thinking about money and beer and wine and shipments and get the picture.

I'm working on that a lot through food right now. Cooking provides me ample ability to turn off my brain, from almost anything that is on my mind. I can easily get lost in it, and find myself smiling on even the worst days, while I'm cooking my way through an old favorite or something new. It allows me, even when it doesn't turn out perfect, to complete something. Usually successfully, which certainly helps with the balance/self-esteem issue.

But it also helps me to work on recipes, while figuring out how to make a comforting, winter-ish, not exactly super duper healthy version of something--and making a very, very similar dish HEALTHY less than a week later. That's what happened the other night, on the last night I cooked during my mom's visit. (Last night she and J were craving BBQ chicken pizza--who am I to deny them?) Last Friday night, while J and I sat and watched Celebrity Rehab and 24, I made what I called 24 Pasta. It was freaking delicious, as I believe I mentioned about 24 times. Well, on the 2nd snowed in day of mom's visit, I cooked a very similar, but much healthier version. I was in a totally different headspace, and wanted/needed something a bit lighter. And I got to tell you it was really, really good.
I'd ideally add some protein into it, maybe chicken, maybe sausage (but the latter kills the super healthy version.) J ate a huge bowl, and mom actually ate a full small bowl, which is a lot for her! I also have serious dreams of making this in the summer, when the tomatoes are fresh and there is fresh basil abundantly growing, and I can add a few more veggies to the mix.

My point is, balancing is hard. It's not the easiest thing we can do. But it's almost diabolical to try and create 2 dishes, both very similar, with two different mindsets and come out triumphant with both. I highly recommend trying it. And trying this. It's damn good.

Light and Happy 24 Pasta (again, I need another good name...)

2 whole bulbs garlic
1/4  cup olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 medium eggplant
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
2 TBSP red pepper flakes
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 shallots, sliced
1/2 cup white wine 
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
Greens (2 bunches mustard greens, cleaned and chopped)
Zest of 1 whole lemon, juice of half 
Crumbled feta, for topping (I buy blocks of feta, so I just crumbled enough for all of us.)
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Cut ends off garlic bulbs, exposing the tops of the cloves. Place on a piece of foil then drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap garlic up in the foil, roast 45 minutes.
Let cool then squeeze out the garlic cloves from the skins in a bowl and mash with fork. Cover with olive oil, about 1/4 C. Set aside.
Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet. Slice eggplant lengthwise into slices 1/2 inch thick. Brush each piece with some of the roasted garlic oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place eggplant in oven and roast 15-20 minutes until golden and tender. Remove, let cool then cut into 1 inch chunks (bite-sized-ish)

While eggplant roasts, boil large pot of water. Cook spaghetti, and drain.
Place remaining oil with the roasted garlic in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add red pepper flakes, oregano and shallots, sauté about 5-6 minutes, til tender.
 Add wine and stir. Add tomatoes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Stir in eggplant and heat through. Add greens and wilt into sauce.

Drain pasta and toss with sauce. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, add zest of whole lemon and 1/2 lemon juice.
Dish into large bowls and top with crumbled feta.
We had this with a great White Burgundy, super reasonably priced I might add, that I love. You could also go with a light bodied Pinot Noir.


  1. That is a gorgeous looking meal! I'm for sure making this in the next few days.--christine

  2. Definitely making this sometime this week. Looks fabulous! BTW- I'm trying to make one "new" thing each week to break myself out of the mac and cheese/chicken nugget toddler diet rut, and you are my go-to source! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Rachel Birsner

  3. Thanks guys! Rach, I'm THRILLED to be your inspiration. I'm working on some new (very healthy) recipes this week. I hope you and Dave LOVE them! xo