I've had a few people ask me about the steps that go into the recipes I've been making... so I thought I'd snap some photos for today's meal as I went along. I really like roasted vegetables, and haven't made them in a long time, which was why Tomato and Roasted Eggplant Stew sounded so good. The first step was to roast the eggplant, red peppers, and garlic. Roasting is a pretty easy technique, but I learned two important things this time around. 1) Roasting is not practical in a tiny apartment oven. I set the smoke detector off about 8 times. 2) Parchment paper is critical for the pans. I wish I'd used it in the past to avoid trashing my baking sheets.
The red peppers were roasted for about half the time of the eggplant, and then were put in a plastic bag so the skins could be peeled off. Just like the fancy roasted peppers you can pay $5 a jar for!
The red peppers were added to the "stew" with the eggplant and tomatoes, and then each clove of garlic was squeezed in. Roasting the garlic brings out the nutty flavor - it's a really good appetizer just by itself. Since I was making the stew ahead of time, I let the flavors marinate for a few hours. The smoky roasted vegetables balanced each other out exceptionally.
While the stew was simmering, I made the Poppy-Seed Polenta. I've never formed my own polenta patties, and they turned out really cute in the muffin tin. They needed to "set" for 2 hours in the refrigerator, another good reason I cooked earlier in the day. Before I served them, I pan fried them. (It suggested not to in the recipe, but I did it anyhow and it turned out fine.) Polenta by itself is really boring, so the spicy stew was a perfect way to accompany it.
Overall, this was one of the best flavor combinations I've had. I loved the spicy smokiness. It was, however, ridiculously time consuming. I'd double the roasted veggies next time around, just to make the roasting time more useful. For now, I've got nothing but time on my hands, so a few hours cooking a delicious dinner was well worth it.