Macaroni and Cheese with Eggplant
Today at lunchtime, I began perusing my cupboards and my refrigerator and thinking of all the recipes I’ve read lately, trying to decide what I wanted to eat. I had eggplant left over from a Thai curry recipe, cheddar I had indulged in buying the day before, and macaroni in my cupboard. So, I decided to make a casserole that ended up being Macaroni and Cheese with Eggplant.
Cooking for one is quite difficult to accomplish successfully, so I made quite a bit. It actually filled a gratin dish as well as the ramekin above. And after investing a bit of effort in dreaming up this dish, I had the wonderful idea of sharing it with the people at work to get some feedback. So I packed it up and placed it in my bicycle basket. Everyone was nice enough to compliment me and even ask for a recipe. But in my more critical opinion, if I make this again, I might roast the eggplant instead of frying it to reduce the oils a little.
[February 9, 2005, I've redone this recipe today with much success. Roasting the eggplant was, as I expected really yummy. I did, however, not cook the onions before I baked them, and they came out a bit strong until I reheated it the second time. I used a half onion that I had left in the fridge, and after baking it tasted a bit too oniony. I should have perhaps soaked the chopped onion in water before adding them to the casserole dish. I didn't have green peppers this time, so I left those out, but roasting them should be a nice touch too.]
In any case, here’s the recipe:
Macaroni and Cheese with Eggplant
1 cup [3/4 cup] macaroni
3  eggplants
1 small green pepper (ピーマン or piiman),
finely chopped [cut in strips]
salt and pepper
2/3 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
2  eggs
1 tbs water
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2/3 cup grated cheddar
a dash of nutmeg
Boil the macaroni until al dente.
At the same time, heat olive oil in a large pan and as you chop the eggplant into small pieces, toss them into the oil. (If you leave the white part of an eggplant exposed to the air for too long, it gets an ugly brown color.) When the eggplant become slightly translusent, you know there’s enough oil to keep them from becoming chewy. Add the chopped onions and piiman and cook until onions just barely become transluscent. Turn off the heat of the pan.
[As the macaroni boils, slice the eggplant thinly. On a chopping board, brush both sides of each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast over a gas flame (I got a great little grate that fits perfectly over mine at the 100 yen store this week) until the slices are partially blackened but soft. Do the same with the green pepper strips.]
Preheat the oven to
Take the macaroni off the stove, drain, and rinse them with cold water to remove the extra starch. Toss back into the pot with oregano, thyme, cayenne, [and onion].
Combine everything thoroughly, but gently to keep the eggplant pieces whole. In a small bowl, scramble the eggs with a tablespoon water. Make sure the pan is cool or transfer the contents to a bowl. Pour the eggs and half the cheese over the macaroni/eggplant mixture and stir gently until evenly coated. Transfer everything into a gratin or casserole dish. [Put half the macaroni in the bottom of a gratin or casserole dish. Place a layer of eggplant on top and cover with the other half of the macaroni mixture.] Top with cheese and sprinkle nutmeg over the cheese. Bake for 10 [15 to 20] minutes or until the cheese is gently browned in places and there are no juices at the bottom of the dish when you stick a spoon in.
Eat as soon as possible so the color of the eggplant skin doesn’t wear off onto the noodles. Else you get purplish green macaroni, which can be . . . interesting.