Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday Night Special: Easy Mediterranean Wraps

My wife likes eggplant. Seriously so. If I didn't cook eggplant for her now and then I'd be out on
the street. Dom Perignon and jewelry are nice, but she wants eggplant. And don't peel the skin or you get quite an interrogation. "Why are you peeling it? What did it ever do to you? You expect me to eat naked eggplant?"
Fortunately, I discovered eggplant while I was still a single guy, prior to meeting my wife. I remember the grocery store checkout person eyeing my produce and saying, "I never thought I'd see a single man buy eggplant."
Little did he know, it was destiny.
So, she called me late Tuesday afternoon to say that she got held up with what she was doing and didn't make it to the store. "And remember, I'm going to the thing at that place tonight? We need to eat early and quick."
As a result, our dinner plans had been transformed from a carefully thought out process into a desperate foray into dark magic. It was up to me to conjure yet another Tuesday Night Special -- a quick, healthy dinner based solely on what we had in the house. I call this a "Tuesday Night Special" because, for reasons that I could not hope to explain, these situations always seem to happen on a Tuesday. Go figure.
In a moment like this, you need to be creative. When you open the fridge or pantry door, Wolfgang Puck will not appear with an already-prepared dish in his hands (and if he does, get your own darned blog). I look for elements I have and try to fit them into food stylings from different cuisines. You have to think broadly about these forms and the elements that fit them -- and often you'll be twisting the form a bit to fit what you have. What I found were the elements (veggies, cheese etc.) that generally fit the "taco" form, but are not usually considered Mexican ingredients. So this form is twisted a bit into "wraps." Playing the role of salsa tonight is sun-dried tomato tapenade.

Easy Mediterranean Wraps
A couple veggie sausage patties (I used Boca Burger - noting that trademarks are the property of their owners who did not pay a dime for the plug - but you could use a little regular sausage, leftover chicken or just skip it altogether)
1 or 2 smallish, firm purple eggplants (back away from the peeler and nobody gets hurt)
1 or 2 large beefsteak-style tomatoes or equivalent, seeded, chopped
1/2 a medium onion, diced
About a cup or so of fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano
8 flour tortillas

For the tapenade:
2 decent-sized cloves garlic
About 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
3 to 4 kalamata olives, pitted (buy them whole and pit them yourself)
2 anchovies or 2 tsp anchovy paste (OK, sure, it's optional you wimp)
1 tbsp capers
A splash of balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
A bit of fresh herb (whatever you have, I usually put oregano in tapenade)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the eggplant into half-inch rounds then into strips. Combine the eggplant, tomatoes and onions in a baking dish. Toss all that with olive oil and if you season it, do so just lightly. Put in the oven to bake, stirring the mixture now and then. You want it to just start caramelizing and in my oven that was about 30 minutes.

Put the tapenade ingredients into a food processor, with enough olive oil that you get something that's a loose paste though not really a sauce. Add the olive oil little by little as you whir it up. You can always add more, but can't remove it once it's in there. Adjust all the ingredients for your taste.
Microwave the veggie burgers, leftover chicken or if you're using regular sausage cook that up in a pan quickly. You want it shredded enough that it can be mounded in the wrap. For the veggie burgers, I just cut them into strips.
To serve, I put the eggplant mixture on the table along with the other elements and let people make their own Mediterranean wraps.
The kids ate it. The wife got her eggplant. Disaster was avoided. Dad was a hero.

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