Good friend of mine had her birthday this week. I knew I wanted to get her something and so I ran over a list of things that could be gifts.
1. Designer high heeled shoes. NOPE. Too expensive given current economic RECESSION, not to mention impractical for running after three children.
2. Designer handbag. NOPE. Again, cost and also not efficient given that a mommy's handbag often turns into a desk, lunch box, grocery bag, and lost and found at the same time.
3. Spa day. NOPE. Mommy friend has no time to go to the bathroom alone, let alone sit in a salon chair for 30 minutes to get her toes done.
4. Dinner and a movie. NOPE. Kids need her at night, husband needs her at night, no time at night. (oftentimes a mommy's busiest time.)
After I had eliminated all my choices, and after attempting to get her to take some time to get a pedicure and lunch - I was forced to give up. I decided instead, to give her a night off from cooking for her family. I made her some pasta salad, some chili and some cupcakes as a present and had it dropped off at her house. (delivery made for me by another trusted friend.) It ended up making me feel really good as her family ate well, she got a night off from cooking and everyone was happy.
Which made me realize - the power that cooking has...it can be debilitating when you're agonizing about what to cook, what to shop for, how to feed the family and one can often be paralyzed by the sheer decisions that need to be made around a meal - OR it can be energizing and inspiring - I got a lot of joy and pleasure from providing someone with a simple meal and my friend an equal amount of joy and pleasure from not having to make decisions about what to cook.
The next time you need to give a birthday present - you can think of perhaps, giving a meal...
Eggplant Pasta Salad
2 medium eggplants or 1 large eggplant
2 red bell peppers, chopped into strips (about ¼ inch wide)
1 yellow bell pepper chopped into strips
2 onions, chopped into strips
5 cloves of garlic (or more to your taste)
1 lb penne, farfalle, or penne rigate – personal choice
¾ - 1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Herbes De Provence
Juice from one lemon
½ cup fresh basil, chiffonade cut
1. Preheat oven to 400. Cut eggplant into ¾ inch cubes. Toss with ½ cup olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt. Put into roasting pan, and cook, until tender, about 20 minutes. (Check once and stir the eggplant around to ensure even cooking.)
2. In a heavy fry pan over medium low heat, cook onions and bell pepper in about ¼ cup olive oil. This should take about 25 minutes to cook – the onions and bell peppers should caramelize, and be soft. During the last five minutes of cooking, add the garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. (can be a bit salty here as this will season the pasta. But remember-the eggplant also has salt.)
3. Cook pasta according to directions.
4. In a salad bowl, mix lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, and herbes de provence. Toss cooked pasta in the mix. Add bell pepper/onion mixture. Add eggplant and basil. Serve with parmesan cheese. Best served at room temperature.