Sauteed Eggplant Puree with Herbs de Provence

This is one of my favourite side dishes!  If you happen to have a lonely eggplant sitting at the bottom of your vegetable crisper in the fridge or if you're simply bored of the same old sautéed eggplant side dish, then here's a recipe for you!

The day it finally dawned on me that I could purée this adult-friendly side dish moment this recipe became a staple "first food" for my son, it also become an instant time-saver and not to mention, saved me from recipe-inventing induced headaches in the process.

I simply remove my son's portion before adding extra spices to the "grown-up" version, and voila...TWO meals in one!  Having said that, I HAVE had the "first food" version (aka. purée) myself as a pasta "sauce" and loved it!  (On a side note, moms and dads should definitely try it for themselves!)

This recipe has become even more of a time-saver now that my son is 18 months old-I simply either chop the eggplant (it's a consistency thing for him sometimes!) or give him some of our "grown-up" portion.  Either way, it's delicious and easy to make!

(Makes about 3 cups)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, halved or finely chopped (I always halve then remove them once the eggplant are cooked to avoid an overpowering "garlicky" flavour!)
1 large eggplant
1 tbsp. herbs de Provence (or your own mix)
*If you don't have herbs de Provence, you can make your own spice mix by mixing
equal parts dried thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, basil.  (You can also omit a spice or add more of your favourite to personalize your herbs de Provence)
1/2 cup fresh finely chopped basil (This is optional-I add the extra basil simply because I love the flavour!)
2 tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
1-2 cups water

In a large frying pan, sauté olive oil and garlic on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
In the meantime, chop eggplant into 1 inch slices then into 1 inch cubes.

Don't be too concerned if the cubes are not perfectly uniform-slightly larger or smaller pieces won't make much of a difference in regards to cooking time.
(On a side note: chopping smaller pieces speeds up the cooking process!)

Add eggplant, herbs de Provence, fresh basil (don't forget to put a tbsp. or so aside for your garnish) and 1/2 cup of water to the pan.

Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally then add the tomato paste and reduce the heat to medium-low.

As the eggplant cooks it tends to dry out.  To prevent it from burning or sticking to the pan simply add 1/4 cup of water at a time.  Once the water evaporates add another 1/4 cup.  Repeat this process for about 20 minutes or until the eggplant is tender and translucent.

Remove baby's portion and purée or chop finely (pictured).  Add salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes and any additional spices to your portion.

Serve puréed as a first food for baby...

...or switch it up and add to rice, quinoa or your favourite pasta.

Garnish with some finely chopped fresh basil, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and freshly grated parmesan!  Buon appetito!

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