Reduced

There’s something so beautiful and simple about a tomato sauce reducing on the stovetop.

You start off with a pile of sliced shallots and onions and a hefty slug of olive oil, a couple of spoonfuls of minced garlic and a knob or two of butter. It all melts together in a golden puddle and as the heat increases the liquids evaporate.

Then it’s time for the balsamic vinegar — that rich, black liqueur that smells of forest loam and grapes and mushrooms that slides down into the pot with a satisfying sizzle — and it too eventually turns to a delectable syrup. This is when you add the red wine.

Don’t be stingy here. Give your sauce some credit. She can handle this. It’s only Tuesday, but it’s already been a long week.

The wine sweetens the onion-garlic-shallot-balsamic base and adds another layer of depth that is not quite as deep as the vinegar, but lands right in between the shallot and the tomato.

And the tomato is next; or rather, the can of diced tomatoes, the tomato’s less-attractive older sibling that is equally, if not more so, useful in the kitchen. Stir in one can of diced tomatoes, making sure to mix the base in completely with the juices. They will become fast friends.

Turn the heat down low and let the sauce gently simmer for a half hour or so, without a lid. Check once or twice. Stir occasionally.

It is truly a marvel, when the sauce is finished. Look at the marks on the side of the pot: as with a rising dam or dried-up pond, the liquid leaves behind smears that betray its original height. The volume of the original sauce has now decreased by at least one third and is thicker and sweeter and more complex than it was at first.

Reduction is a worthy, poetic experiment in cooking. It teaches us that time and heat and hardship may wear us down, but we are all the better for it.

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Eggplant Parmesan

1 medium eggplant

1 can diced tomatoes

1 shallot, diced

1/2 onion, diced

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

balsamic vinegar

red wine

olive oil and/or coconut oil

3-4 Tbsp. butter

dried basil

Parmesan cheese

S + P

– Sautee shallots and onion in olive oil in a medium saucepan until soft. Add garlic and melt in 2 Tbsp. butter. Drizzle in a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and simmer on low until thick and syrupy. Add in red wine — about 1/4 – 1/2 c. — and let reduce again. Pour in entire can of tomatoes and add remaining 2 Tbsp. butter (more certainly can’t hurt it!). Turn the heat down on low and let gently simmer for about thirty minutes, until thick and reduced by about a third.

– Slice eggplant and arrange in a pan. Salt heavily on both sides and let sweat while sauce is simmering. Dab with a paper towel to remove excess liquid before cooking. Heat several tablespoons of coconut oil (or olive oil or vegetable oil) in a saucepan, season the eggplant and fry on both sides until soft and golden brown.

– Arrange eggplant slices over a bed of quinoa, steamed kale, and top with the sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and enjoy while hot!

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My roommate, Stevie, was my official taste-taster, and she said that this sauce was the best she had ever tasted! I was so grateful that she was adventurous and tried eggplant for the first time — and I was also grateful that this method of cooking the eggplant worked without turning it into a rubbery mess. I pan-fried half of the eggplant and I baked the other half, so feel free to experiment with the best cooking method for you.

(P.S. This is perfect for such a cool, rainy day as this. Comfort food at its finest!)

 

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