Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ditali Pasta, Roasted Red Peppers and Fava Beans en Tahini Herb Sauce with Garlic Eggplant

     A Tasty Mediterranean Style Vegetarian Pasta!
     Tahini is sesame paste.  Tahini Paste is available at many common grocery stores.  Plain Tahini Paste that has no added flavor it is the correct choice for today's pasta recipe.  
     It is easy to confuse Tahini Paste with Tahini Sauce.  Pre-made Tahini Sauce looks almost like plain Tahini Paste.  Tahini Sauce is flavored with lemon, olive oil, garlic, sumac berry spice and a few other ingredients.  Pre-made Tahini Sauce is a nice convenience for making Hummus, but the flavor may be too strong for other applications, like today's pasta sauce.

     When water or broth is add to Tahini Paste, the fine ground sesame seeds readily absorb the liquid.  A sauce made with water and Tahini Paste actually looks like a smooth velvety cream sauce.  
     Many vegetarians are familiar with Almond Milk.  The fine ground almond powder reacts with water the same way as sesame paste.  After nuts or seeds are ground to a fine paste, the paste will readily absorbs liquid.  This is because nuts are dried before being processed and the nut oil prevents moisture from being drawn in from the air.  
     A very small amount of sesame paste can easily make a cup of hot water look like milk.  Adding a little bit more sesame paste will make the water look like a rich cream sauce consistency.  It is important to gradually add small amounts of sesame paste when making a sauce, because it takes time for the paste to absorb liquid.  Adding too much sesame paste too quickly, will result in a sauce that is as thick as mud.  
     Ditali Pasta was actually one of the first pasta shapes that were made when Arabic mechanical pasta makers were introduced a few hundred years ago.  Mechanized pasta machines were introduced to Italy by Arabic traders and the Italians eventually brought this food technology to perfection by advancing the extruded pasta making process.  The shape of Ditali Pasta easily picks up a sauce.  Ditali is a popular pasta shape in North Africa, the Middle East and Italy. 
     Fava Beans are in the pea vine family of plants.  Raw fresh Fava Beans or dried Fava Beans must be cooked at 175ºF for 17 minutes, so the harmful toxins are neutralized.  Canned Fava Beans are ready to serve.
     Fava Beans originated as wild bean somewhere in Afghanistan and they became a domesticated bean in Egypt sometime around the age of the Pharaohs.  Fava Beans have been a Middle Eastern tradition ever since.  Fava Beans have a rich hearty flavor that is perfect for today's pasta recipe!
     Eggplant is a main staple vegetable everywhere in Mediterranean region.  Pan seared or grilled large bite chunks of eggplant with whole garlic cloves are commonly served on their own as a vegetable.  Garlic Eggplant adds a nice flavor to this recipe.   
     Lemon Juice adds enough acidity to bring the Tahini pasta sauce to life.  Good olive oil is used in place of ghee (clarified butter) to give recipe 100% vegetarian status.  Nobody ever said that vegetarian food has to be boring raw or steamed plain vegetables.  Mediterranean cuisine offers plenty of great tasting vegetarian recipes and there is no end to the great flavor combinations! 

     *This entire recipe yields 1 hearty portion!  Arabic spices, Ditali Pasta, Fava Beans and Tahini Paste can be found in Mediterranean food markets.  

     Ditali Pasta:
     Cook 1 portion of ditali pasta in a pot of boiling water over high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.  
     Drain the water off of the pasta and set it aside.
     Garlic Eggplant:
     Eggplant will absorb plenty of olive oil while it is cooked.  Be prepare to add more olive oil if necessary.  Just like mushrooms, eggplant will release some of the olive oil after it becomes fully cooked.  The excess olive oil can then be drained off and used to start the pasta sauce.
     The garlic cloves will finish cooking first, so they must be removed from the pan and set aside!
     Step 1:  Heat a seasoned sauté pan or non-stick sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of blended olive oil. 
     Add 8 large thick bite size pieces of eggplant.  (Leave the skin attached.)
     Add 5 whole cloves of garlic that are partially crushed.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Turn the eggplant pieces occasionally, till the eggplant is golden brown on all sides.
     The garlic will finish first.  Use tongs to remove the garlic cloves after they are lightly browned.  
     Set the caramelized garlic cloves aside in a container and keep them warm on a stove top.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Gently sauté till the eggplant is fully cooked and the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the finished eggplant and onions in the container with the garlic.
     Keep the garlic, onions and eggplant warm on a stove top.

     Ditali Pasta, Roasted Red Peppers and Fava Beans en Tahini Herb Sauce with Garlic Eggplant:
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Sauté till the onion turns clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Saute for a few seconds, so the ginger becomes aromatic.
     Step 3:  Add 2 cups of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 1 small pinch of cardamom.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of tahini while stirring with a whisk.  (plain sesame paste)
     *It is better to add too little tahini paste, than too much.  Sesame paste will thicken a sauce just like a roux.  More can be added to thicken the sauce if necessary, after the sauce simmers and reduces.
     Stir till the tahini is blended with the liquid.
     Step 5:  Add 2 teaspoons of crushed dried fenugreek leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of Wild Thyme.  (Or a Za'atar Spice Mix that contains wild Thyme.  European Thyme is not the same as Wild Thyme.) 
     Add 1 pinch of basil. 
     Add 1 pinch of dried mint.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 6:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 teaspoon of honey.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 1/3 cup of rinsed cooked fava beans or rinsed canned fava beans.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  The finished volume of sauce be enough sauce to generously coat the pasta.  (About 1 1/2 cups.)
      *If the sauce is too thin, then add 1/2 teaspoon of sesame paste at a time while stirring, then simmer till the sauce becomes a medium thin consistency.
     Step 7:  Add the reserved prepared ditali pasta to the sauce. 
     Toss the ingredients together as the pasta heats.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the sauced pasta on a plate or shallow pasta bowl.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of Sumac Berry Spice over the pasta.
     Place the reserved sautéed garlic cloves and onion pieces on the top center of the pasta.
     Arrange the eggplant pieces on the pasta around the garlic.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig or cilantro sprig.

     This Mediterranean style vegetarian pasta is loaded with great flavor.  Alternating bites of the rich pasta with the garlic eggplant creates a nice sensation!

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