The tires of our more sensible car, the sedan, crunched on the baking gravel as we pulled into the lot beneath the firefighter drill building. The Brazos River rolled heavily off to our left as we made our way towards the sound of live Texas country music and the smells of fajita meat and crepes.
Approaching the farmers market, le fiancé and I made our usual rounds–a stop at the coffee stall, then a breakfast of tacos or crepes (and not any cookies or macarons, none at all), before perusing the farmers’ fair.
Arriving later than usual, we noticed that, while the crowd was still buzzing and lounging in the 103 degree heat (what sort of bionic shield are these people wearing and where can I get one?), the tables looked a little empty.
(I’m telling you, the Waco Downtown Farmers Market has become a social scene–you want to be seen at the farmers market…just saying.)
Let’s just say, I’m glad they’re offering honey and olive oil and salsa and pizza and cookies (not that I go there for those, ::cough::), because it looks like the crops are on the verge of getting scorched. IF! however, IF! you are one of those lucky souls who arrived at 8:55 a.m. and snagged the tomatoes and the peppers and eggplants, you could make this super versatile sauce, fill your house with love and deliciousness, and dine on a fresh, healthy Mediterranean-style meal that satisfies you from your bones to your soul (that means it’s good). I served it with a poached egg and I forgot about cheese entirely–and that almost never happens.
In other news, I finally tried salting eggplant before cooking to 1) reduce bitterness and 2) keep them from absorbing all the liquid/oil. It worked like a champ. You just cut the eggplant in slices or cubes, salt heavily (I used 2 Tablespoons table salt), then drain over a wire rack or in a colander over a bowl. Before using them in the recipe, rinse and dry them thoroughly by pressing between towels. They will absorb salt even if you rinse them, so adjust your seasoning accordingly.
Secondly, I peeled my tomatoes because I don’t like when the sauce gets full of the peels. Decide for yourself. Here’s how I did it: Prepare tomatoes by coring and barely scoring the skin on the opposite side in a criss-cross pattern. Boil water rapidly and drop tomatoes in 2-3 at a time, keeping water at a vigorous boil. (You may need to put the lid back on). Boil for 12 seconds, then plunge into ice water. When finished, the peels should come off easily. OR use canned diced tomatoes and don’t tell me about it. 🙂
Summer Vegetable Sauce of Eggplant, Bell Pepper, and Tomato
Serves 3 generously or 4 moderately
Note: you could easily stretch this to serve more by adding extra vegetables to your liking. Keep in mind that most of the liquid is coming from the tomatoes, so adding more tomatoes will create more juice, while adding only eggplant or bell pepper will result in a thicker sauce. Alternately, just double it!
½ small white onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 small eggplants (salted and drained), diced in ½-inch cubes
8 small-medium Roma tomatoes (peeled), diced in ½-inch cubes (lose the googlies)
2 medium bell peppers (seeds removed), diced in ½-inch cubes (I used 1 small yellow, 1 small red, and 1 large greenish pepper)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Honey or agave, to taste
Good olive oil to serve
For poached eggs
4 eggs (optional)
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in Dutch oven or large heavy-bottom pot. Sauté onions until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic, cook until fragrant, 2-3 more minutes.
2. Add eggplant and brown, 5 minutes. Add bell peppers and sweat, 3 more minutes. Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer. (Optional: add ¼ to ½ cup of dry red wine). Cook 20-30 minutes. When eggplant is cooked through and juice has come out of tomatoes, season to taste with salt, pepper, and honey or agave (in case your tomatoes were not very sweet).
3. Meanwhile, bring a large, shallow pot of water to a boil with vinegar. Crack eggs into a small bowl before dropping them into the water. Drop eggs, lid immediately and remove from heat. Rest 5 minutes for runny yolks. Carefully remove from pot with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel before plating.
Serve over pasta, grain, greens, poultry, or fish of your choice.
Suggestions: Add capers! Add anchovies? Add olives?