Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Only What You Need From It

I'm having trouble thinking the funny thoughts. Let's change the subject.

It's cold, it's dark and we're saving our pennies for holiday treats. We're all filled with festive ennui - unless that's just me and I'm projecting. You're probably just fine. Stop laughing! I'll let you in on a secret: I can't actually cook. Getting dinner on the table is not the same thing, but even doesn't seem like it'd disqualify me from getting a show on Food Network. Apropos of nothing, this is my favorite breakfast, coincidentally a fine dinner, lunch or afternoon snack. The recipe is imprecise, and you should make it the way you like it because it will be more deliciouser for you. Prepare this at night and breakfast is waiting when you get up.

1 big ass eggplant or two, peeled and cubed

If you're about to argue you can't do that: shove it! You can so!

2 or 3 zucchinis, chopped into big chunks
1 ginormous onion or two smaller ones or a red one or some shallots
3 or 4 bell peppers, colorful like a rainbow, cut into hunks
1 mess o' garlic cloves, peeled
1 honkin' can of whole tomatoes, or two if you're going for quantity
1 teeny can of tomato paste
olive oil
1 or two bay leaves
sea salt
ground pepper
white wine, if the spirit moves you


plain yogurt or ricotta

Some of these sound like ingredients of a very familiar concoction and why not? Whatever! Let's pick a pot: it's got to be big enough to hold most of that junk on your grocery list with plenty of room for error. What error? How about you don't pick a big enough pot and your breakfast takes a year to cook? Right, so: big pot, more surface area. Heat it up, pour in enough olive oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan, toss in your garlic and stir. Don't let that burn. It will not be tasty. After a few minutes, the garlic will look different, so you should add onions. Stir, stir, stir. Add the eggplant. Stir, stir, stir. Sense a theme developing? By now you're wondering if you should add more oil. I don't know. I can't see your humongous pot. But you shouldn't worry, because the next step is to create an empty space on the bottom of the humongous pot, spoon in the tomato paste and mix it with some more oil, let that sit a minute, then mess everything around together, adding canned tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, herbs, salt and pepper because they are delicious. Add wine, if you use wine. You can use dried herbs and add them now or use fresh and add them closer to the end, but never, ever be shy about tossing in basil. It's good for you! Let this come to a boil, reduce to a healthy simmer, stirring occasionally.

Half an hour later, you will check the doneness of the vegetables because I don't know how big you cut them. Follow directions for the couscous you have. Most instant varieties involve boiling some water and a little oil, pouring in the couscous and removing the pan from the heat. It's hardly even cooking. You can do that! Hell, if I can you can! Let it sit for five minutes. Fluff with a fork. I like to add some butter, but we're talking about you here. When the vegetables are cooked through and still chunky, they're ready. It's probably about 45 or 50 minutes, but time is relative and I am easily bored and foraging in your fridge.

You have made a big old stew. Does it need anything? Add that.

To serve: pour some eggplant goo into a container, spoon in a healthy portion of couscous, top with a splooshy dollop of cold plain yogurt or mild ricotta. If you are handy with those recyclable food containers, portion out three or four of them and breakfast is ready when you get up in the morning.

If you have extra stew, which I bet you do, it freezes fantastically. Don't try freezing couscous, or do if you're feeling experimental. What the hell, science is funny, but not necessarily delicious.



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