Though my family and I always have a sit down meal together on week nights, the weekends seem to elude us and instead have turned into a rather hectic, get-all-your-errands-done-as–quickly-as possible frame of time. From the early hours of the morning, we are in a mad rush to mail letters, buy groceries, get to the bank, clean the house, and make sure to check off all other tasks on the ever-expanding to-do list. By dinnertime, with all of our spirit and vigor dried up, we end up at a local family restaurant and lazily crawl into our seats hoping our bodies will hold out just a while longer before falling into a deep slumber.
Don’t get me wrong I love an evening where someone else takes care of everything, and I can breath easy while basking in my families company. However, as time has passed, I find myself appreciating the evening dinners at home more and more. Our home, or khaneh is where the rising rosewater and honey smell of a freshly baked Baklava cake permeates throughout the rooms and hallways, where pudgy elfin fingers peak out from underneath the counter tops every now and then to grab whatever kitchen utensil they clumsily collide with, and a where a table is crowned with a glorious meal set to enliven your heart as well as your taste buds.
And so, after much deliberation, we’ve decided on a new tradition for our little family of three, Sunday night dinners, not a new concept, however a great habit to fall into. No matter how much we have to do during the weekend, we will take some time out in order to spend Sunday nights sitting together, around the dinner table to feed, fare, and devour our way through an enchanted evening.
This past weekend was the first “official” dinner, and due to my husband’s strong recommendation, we had an eggplant timbale. A timbale is simply a pasta dish enclosed in a cloak of some sort and this particular one has buttery soft grilled eggplant replacing the classic high caloric dough or potato versions.
The interior is filled with short cut pasta in a delicious Bolognese sauce. The variations can be endless, and should you decide to take on the task of reproducing this beauty in your own home, feel free to experiment with your own sauces and ingredients. I am sure it will still turn out to be a delicious undertaking.
To accompany the pasta dish, an eye-catching caprese salad. This fresh and vibrant salad was a great partner to our rather substantial main course.
I envision myself posting frequently about the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of these Sunday night dinners. I hope you find something to your liking among the recipes.
Modified from Giada De Laurentiis recipe:
2 medium eggplants, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound bowtie pasta (any short cut will do)
1 medium onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 cups store-bought marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
9-inch springform pan
Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill the eggplant until tender, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
Heat up olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the beef, and brown, breaking it into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the peas, and sauce and stir to combine. Add the cheese and cooked pasta. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the springform pan with the grilled eggplant. Be sure that the slices overlap and hang over the edge of the pan. Fill the pan with the mixture, pressing down to make sure the pan is filling up evenly. Fold the eggplant slices up over the top of the pasta and add a few more slices on top to completely enclose it. Bake the timbale until warmed through, about 30 minutes. Let rest on the counter for 10 minutes to set.
To serve, invert the timbale onto a serving plate and remove the springform pan.
Modified from Ina Garten recipe:
12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces fresh mozzarella
Bunch of fresh basil leaves, julienned
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
Arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with the garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2-teaspoon pepper. Roast for 2 hours until the tomatoes are concentrated.
Allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature.
Cut the mozzarella into slices slightly less than 1/2-inch thick. If the slices of mozzarella are larger than the tomatoes, cut the mozzarella slices in half. Layer the tomatoes alternately with the mozzarella on a platter and scatter the basil on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Serve at room temperature.