I bring you the limping saga of the jungle of brush, laundry, and wayward stacks of cassette tapes that consistently threaten to overtake the Woodside, peppered with gems about my fermenting dishes and neurotic dog (new fear: floors). And then, without warning or apology, I abandon you for a month. In my defense, it has required quite a bit of my concentration to build a funeral pyre for The Little Prius That Couldn't entirely out of dollar bills.
Proportion of tears in 2009 shed at Hoover Toyota to date: 89%.
But! I am not here to lament my terminal indentured servitude to American Express, no I am not. I vowed to bring you eggplant, and eggplant you shall have.
For what it's worth, I don't particularly like eggplant. I don't know why I do this to myself. Or to others (hi, JLB!). But I cheerily embarked on Cheesy Eggplant-Orzo Casserole, because three out of four (cheesy, orzo, casserole) is a percentage I can get behind. Also, JLB requested it, and ... she was paying. Kitchen Bitch for Hire: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There was lots of soothing chopping to start—sun-dried tomatoes, which were later reconstituted in boiling water
plus eggplant, red bell pepper, onion, and garlic.
At this point there was a side trip to PetSmart, because JLB got her britches in a twist and had to have Pupperoni right that very second. I know better than to come between a woman and her low-calorie dog snacks. Or between a twitchy Maltese and his woman. J embarked on a campaign to strangle himself, eyed a child suspiciously, and attempted to shoplift anything edible within reach. All in all, a brilliant jaunt.
Upon our return, I boiled the pasta (ditalini, not orzo, because JLB's local grocer sometimes forgets to do the little things, like stock items) and set to work sautéing the veg.
After they'd softened up a bit, in went the fresh tomatoes to sweat it out.
Then into the pan went the ricotta cheese, tomato sauce, tomato juice, and pasta, while I shredded a pretty pile of basil.
A quick stir, and into a 9- by 13- dish. It should be noted that JLB dug precariously balanced Pyrex from the far reaches of her pantry in order to avoid washing the easily accessible dirty one. She has a long way to go before she finds herself muttering, "whassat smell?" every time she walks in the house, Woodside-style, but I'm working on her.
A heavy dusting of breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts caps off the cass, and into the oven at 350 for 30 minutes.
Uncovered and baked for an additional 10 minutes, and serve.
It was ... fine? I think? Weird ... ish? The insides were bland, but didn't have any of that eggplanty bitterness. The top crumbled on oven exit, which gave the whole thing a sort of disconcertingly sandy texture. And the pine nuts kept popping up unexpectedly, lending a crunch your teeth were not prepared for.
Red pepper flakes helped with the one-note flavor, but ultimately the votes all went unanimously for Underwhelming. B proclaimed it quite delicious, but only after smothering the offending meal with blue cheese dressing (I know ... I can't ... Just don't think about it too much).
So there you have it. My illustrious return to the Interweb. Circuitous tales interwoven with self-conscious rambling and punctuated with mediocre results.