Creamy Creole Eggplant Pasta Bake*

* Or, It’s Worth Staying Up Until 1:00 AM for Susan V’s Recipe

[Smooth, Creamy Creole bliss in a casserole. With pasta.  ]

When’s the last time you stayed up past midnight?  (Oh. Right–forgot.  Discounting New Year’s Eve, that is).

Back when I was a freshman at university, I worked at “The Round Table,” the after-hours pub and grill on campus (ironically, serving hamburgers!).  I’d sling hash   deal with drunken patrons  waitress until 1:30 AM when the joint closed for the night, scrub the grill and counters, and count up the night’s earnings until about 3:00 AM, then head back to the dorm and wake up in time for an 8:30 AM class (to which I arrived, despite all odds, washed and neatly dressed–with matching socks, even!–and awake).

Later on, after the HH and I met during my late 30s (also known as the Decade of the Dinner Party),  seems it was de rigeur to party till the wee hours of the morning.  I’d primp and preen for a Saturday night date, donning my favorite black sequined tank top, mini skirt and leather boots, before the HH and I spent a romantic evening shifting from dinner at Squirrely’s (the HH’s idea of romantic in those days) to drinks and jazz at the Orbit Room, to a nightcap at Fran’s before finally calling it a night somewhere around 3:30 AM (luckily, I didn’t have a class to get to the next morning).

Well, almost thirteen years later, those party days have long since vanished (as has that mini skirt–though I think the tank top is still kicking around in the back of my closet somewhere).

Nowadays, a typical Saturday night at the DDD household tends to go more like this:  Feed Dogs.  Walk Dogs.  Prepare dinner (the HH acts as sous-chef to Ricki’s chef; Ricki barks orders while the HH chops celery, carrots, onion, and so on).  Eat dinner. Remind dogs to go lie down while humans eat. Retire to TV room. Humans flop on chairs and watch DVD du jour, while  The Girls stretch out on carpet, enthusiastically chomping on Nylabones.  Wash up and go to sleep.  Time check:  10:47 PM.

(“Mum, any night when our pack is all together sounds like a good night to me, wherever we are.  But, um, shouldn’t we be the ones barking orders?”)

This past Saturday, however, we revisited those long-ago evenings of our wayward youth (or, at least, our wayward youth’s bedtime). No, it wasn’t an erstwhile “date night.”  For some reason, scheduled events kept getting deferred until we found ourselves cooking dinner at 8:30 PM, chopping celery side by side at the counter (the HH’s current idea of romantic).  We didn’t even begin eating until 9:00-ish and hadn’t cleaned up until around 10:30.   Consequently, we ended up in front of the TV until after midnight, finally getting to sleep after 1:00 AM.

Let me tell you, staying up late isn’t what it used to be (as those of you with kids undoubtedly know, the little ones–in our case, The Girls–don’t recognize changes in schedule and are right there, wet nose on earlobe, at the usual time–ie, 6:55 AM).  And while I really enjoyed the movie (500 Days of Summer, which amused even the HH), it was really the dinner that made those extra bags under my eyes Sunday morning seem worth it.

[Smooth, Creamy Creole bliss ladled over cooked rice pasta.]

I’d been seeking a use for a lone eggplant hiding out at the back of the fridge, and assumed I’d make my usual baba ganoush or perhaps eggplant “parmesan” with it. In the decade before the Decade of the Dinner Party (more like the Decade of the Dorm party), eggplant parm had been one of my staple dishes, the breaded rounds of eggplant afloat with grease and excessively oozing, melted cheeses.  And while I loved it back then, I have to agree with Andrea’s assessment of her recent takeout pizza: all that cheese would sort of make me feel a bit ill today.

(“Mum, it’s understandable that you’d prefer more veggies on your ACD.  But we’d be happy to take any extra cheese off your paws hands.”)

Well, sometimes life offers you the perfect confluence of ingredients, peckishness and a winning recipe.  As it turned out, I’d just read Susan V’s blog post about Creamy Creole Eggplant Casserole, and was intrigued.  And, as sometimes happens in the life of a food blogger, I chose to ignore the other 483 recipes already in my “Recipes to Try” folder and leapt at the most recent one in my Google Reader.  Susan’s was the very first food blog from which I made a recipe (I believe it was this one), and I’ve had success with every recipe of hers I’ve ever tried.  And even though I’d never eaten a Creole dish before, I just knew I’d love this.

With modifications, of course.  Because of the infernal ACD, I knew I’d have to adapt the recipe somewhat–no mushrooms and no nutritional yeast, for a start.  And I only had one eggplant, not two.  And I can’t eat breadcrumbs.  Oh, and we’d agreed on pasta for dinner.  I decided to use the base as a pasta sauce, and halve the recipe, but retain the spice measurements and sauce mixture as they were (we like highly spiced food, and pasta needs a saucy sauce).  Was I even still making the same recipe?  No matter–those Creole seasonings were calling to me.

Well, I miscalculated how long it would take to bake an eggplant, which is why we ended up eating so late. But let me tell you, it was worth it! And if you think ahead just a wee bit more than I did and pre-bake your eggplant before starting the dish, you can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes or about an hour, depending on which version you use.

creamy eggplant pasta on diet, dessert and dogs

[The 30-Minute Version: Creamy Sauce atop just-cooked pasta.]

The pasta was delectable (“This one is a winner,” the HH enthused, meaning “You should make this again”).  Yesterday evening, however, the dish made the leap from “yummy” to “spectacular” on the hierarchy of food descriptors.  I had decided to blend the remaining pasta with the remaining sauce and bake the whole thing in a casserole, much as Susan baked hers.  The pasta absorbed a bit of the moisture in the sauce and the mixture was rendered even more thick and creamy, highlighting the hunks of eggplant and pepper along with the beans in the mix (I used navy beans, as we were out of chickpeas).

The casserole is creamy, it’s velvety, it’s meaty, and just a bit spicy. The blend of herbs and cayenne work beautifully together to create an aromatic yet assertive sauce perfectly balanced by the mild, chewy pasta, somewhat like a slightly wealthier, slightly more sophisticated cousin of traditional Mac and Cheese. The perfect accompaniment for a Saturday night at home with the family.

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Last Year at this Time: Flash in the Pan: Sautéed Greens with Onions and Apples

Two Years Ago: Smooth Operator (Mystery Smoothie)

© 2010 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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Comments

  1. that sounds so good! i love Susan V’s blog, such great recipes and pics!

  2. Your Saturday evening sounds a lot like ours. We have 2 dogs who rule our roost. We’re typically in PJs cooking dinner by 6 even! Every once in a while it’s fun to eat late, stay up late, and have no care.

  3. This sounds heavenly. Just the words, “pasta bake” make me hungry. They have such a warm, homey sensibility. We’re having a pasta bake tonight but I wish I’d seen this first. (Have you ever tried roasting an eggplant on a gas stove burner?) Thanks for the link!

  4. Now that’s dedication! To be honest, I get cranky if dinner is any later than 6:30. Glad it was worth the wait though! ;)

  5. That sounds sooo nice…I love pasta bake of any kind. I try not to eat soy, though, so I wonder how it would be to just omit the tofu and use almond milk? Probably a bit thin, I’d imagine. But what if I used half of the eggplant to whip in the blender? That might thicken it.

    Excuse me while I think/type out loud.

  6. This sounds so good! Eggplant goes on the shopping list immediately. And I just thought my ‘Recipes to Try’ folder was backed up; yours sounds more like a boxcar.

  7. I made Susan’s dish and would love to try your version as well. Great adaption!

  8. WOW and WOW! that’s all I’ve got :)

  9. This looks SOOOO good! I’m not supposed to be eating pasta, and now you’ve gone and made me crave it. Thanks a lot! ;) Seriously, great adaptation and delicious-looking photos. I’m glad my recipe could provide inspiration but sorry you had to stay up so late.

  10. The pasta is beautiful! I’m definitely going to remember that for one of my gf forays. Although I stay up quite a lot, I love sleeping more than most things, and last Saturday night I actually hit the sack by 9:30–it was the best thing ever! Plus I must say the cats really enjoyed it :)

  11. Your pasta version looks just as delicious as Susan’s original. It looks perfect for a chilly night.

  12. Isn’t it nice to have two versions of a dish when it’s as delicious as this one seems to be? It’s pretty cool that you could enjoy the quick-and-yummy one when time was short, and that you could then turn the leftovers into that decadent casserole. Yum!

  13. You make it up til 10:47 most nights?!? Heck, that is later than me, lol!

    I love a thick sauce recipe for pasta, grains, veggies, etc., so I am excited to give it a try!

    Courtney

  14. Stef,
    Thanks! And I know–hers is the best :)

    Heather,
    That does sound like the same evening! But yes, it’s great to let loose once in a while, no?

    Andrea,
    Hope your pasta bake was good, too :) And no, I’ve only roasted peppers that way–will give the eggplant a try next time! :)

    Hannah,
    Not so much dedication as no other options! ;) But it WAS worth waiting for :)

    Leah,
    I think using more eggplant would be a good idea. Can you use a little rice flour? That would thicken it nicely, or even a bit of agar powder.

    Mom,
    You are a riot! “Boxcar”. Ha ha! (I really MUST start clearing it out. . . .) ;)

    Mihl,
    Did you post about it? Yummy, no? :)

    Ordinary Vegetarian,
    Thanks! And thanks ;)

    Susan,
    Sorry if I made you crave pasta ;). I’m not really supposed to have too much of it, either, but I’m loosening up the parameters of the ACD, finally. And staying up late was actually kinda fun ;)

    Jes,
    Good for you–I love those nights when I actually get to bed early (like, once a year). Cats and sleep? They’re a natural combo!

    Diann,
    It did help to warm us up the other night!

    Josiane,
    The quick one was good, but the casserole was stellar. Somehow, baking it all together really made a difference!

    Courtney,
    I’d say around 11:00 is our average. . . though on occasion, I crash a bit earlier! And if you like thick and creamy, you’ll love this. :)

  15. WOW! This looks so incredible and hearty. I love having meals like this at the end of a long and busy day. It sounds like a cliche but they really are so incredibly comforting.

  16. up past midnight? the last time was last night when I started reading this post and realised I was too tired to do it justice so put it away til morning – yes it is blogging as much as baby that keeps me up late – though eating late after spending too long in the kitchen often contributes to a late night – must go Sylvia keeps playing with my stereo and turning off/up/down the radio – oh and that dish looks delish

  17. Mmm…this looks seriously decadent. I’m weary of soy though because it often makes my tummy puff up like a hot fart balloon (maybe I’m allergic?). Maybe I could use a touch more coconut oil and some tahini instead? I’m willing to play around with it to figure out a suitable alternative…this looks so good!

    And your dinner-prep sounds like my dinner-prep! My poor bf never gets to do the “fun stuff”, always chopping :( What a good sport those men are, eh? I got my bf a really good chef’s knife a while back, and let me tell you, he approached his chopping duties with much more enthusiasm. Hopefully HH has a cool knife too :)

    Hope you’re doing well, Ricki!

    Alex

  18. ooh, i LOVED 500 days of summer :) this looks fabulous, and it’s so true how things you see make you forget about the long list of other things waiting to be made. my list is growing at an alarming rate, i really need to get on it!

  19. Ricki, you are a goddess! I am loving the sound of this recipe. I am bookmarking it now and praying I don’t forget about it!

  20. your waiting tables days sounded a lot like mine, Ricki! i waited tables for a good while in college along with working for the richmond spca. 2 jobs + classes = a lot of late nights. that’s probably why i don’t stay up past midnight much these days – my body’s still trying to catch up. ah ha ha! i’m gonna netflix 500 Days of Summer, too. thanks!

    your creamy creole eggplant pasta bake sounds wonderful – and if it isn’t the yummiest looking dish as well. mmmmmmm! i love me some creole, eggplant, ‘n cashews! you better believe i just printed off the recipe and i can’t wait to give it a go. thanks, Ricki! happy friday!

  21. Whoa! This dish looks so tasty! Spectacular indeed! The nut topping looks perfect, I love nut and seed toppings instead of breadcrumbs.

    You guys are night owls! Mr. Kook and I are ready to collapse at 9:00! :-D

    P.S: I love the HH’s current idea of romantic! :-)

  22. This looks fantastic! I’ve been looking for a use for the poor eggplant hanging out in the fridge…

  23. Both yours and Susan’s version look delicious!

  24. Gave it a try tonight – modified based on what I know my boys will eat and what we had in the house – and it was delish!
    http://rainydayweightloss.blogspot.com/2010/01/january-20th.html

  25. I haven’t had eggplant very often and am still a bit wary of it, but must admit that this pasta bake looks amazing.

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