I think you all probably know how much I love cumin, love lamb and love eggplant but I never really thought of the three of them together until I read about this recipe in the April issue of Food & Wine magazine. Yep, this recipe is a winner, as are so many of their recipes! It’s not very pretty when it’s done but boy is it good! I made this dish the week before last when Bianca was in town and she was having a quiet night at home with just Steve and me. Or should I say, we got to have her to ourselves for one night, lucky us! And you know when Bianca says a pasta dish is great (being from Arezzo in Tuscany), you know you hit a winner and that’s what I did with this Cumin, Lamb and Eggplant Pasta dish! The recipe is actually from another blogger, Ashley Rodriguez, who is being featured in the publication. Way to go Ashley!
I really have to thank Food & Wine for initially turning me on to cooking with a vengeance. You see, when we moved to New Jersey when our boys were 6 and 3, the restaurant food out there just wasn’t NYC and I really got tired of paying large restaurant bills for the four of us for mediocre food. So I promptly subscribed to Food & Wine, adopted the “I’ll show you” attitude, and started cooking away. In those days, my favorite was Lee Bailey. He used to do a column, “Dinner for a Busy Weeknight.” I still have many of those torn pages, soiled with olive oil drips and whatnot. I’ll never forget, one of my very first “gourmet meals” was his Pasta with Shrimp and Arugula recipe from that feature. It’s still a good recipe! (More on that later) He even accompanied it with dessert – sliced oranges with crushed amaretto cookies – simple and delish!
I have tweaked Ashley’s recipe a bit – cut down on the oil and pumped up the garlic, cumin and oregano. Here you go – not quite pretty but oh so tasty! And home-grown Italian approved, thanks to Bianca!
CUMIN, LAMB AND EGGPLANT PASTA – serves 4 – 5
Adapted from ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ and Food & Wine magazine
2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 medium eggplant (1 pound), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tsp. dried Greek oregano
1 heaping tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika, preferably hot (Pimenton Ahumado)
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 lb. ground lamb
1/4 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup chicken stock
12 ounces gemelli
1/2 cup zero fat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup chopped mint
In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over low-moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 – 12 minutes. Increase heat to moderate. Add the eggplant, garlic, oregano, cumin, paprika and crushed red pepper and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the lamb and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Increase the heat a bit and add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for at least 2 minutes to get the flavor to “bloom”. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the sauce is thickened, about 12 minutes.
Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Stir the pasta into the sauce; add 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water if necessary; (I didn’t) add more water if a thinner sauce is desired. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the yogurt and mint. Taste and season with salt if necessary (I didn’t) and serve hot.