I call this dish eggplant bolognese, but it is not actually an exact replica of a traditional bolognese replacing the ground beef with eggplant. I concocted the recipe over time based on which flavors I prefer, but eggplant bolognese seemed the most appropriate name for this saucy, tomato filled, eggplant dish.
This dish has been a staple for us for a few years now and gets rave reviews from Andrey and other family members. However, while we were in Russia it was quite difficult to find eggplant, so it was somewhat absent from our table. Now that we are back and eggplant is easy to find I am excited to make it more often again.
It is a pretty straightforward recipe, but it takes a little time to cook everything down and meld the flavors. My favorite way to make it is on a relaxed weekend night with a glass of wine in my hand, but it will taste great any day of the week.
1 medium eggplant
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1 can (15oz) tomato sauce
1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes
2 tbs dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground cinnamon
dash of chili pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
olive oil to cook the onions in
1. Begin by slicing the eggplant in half lengthwise and salting the inside. Leave it on a plate while you do the next few steps.
2. Diced the onion and crush the garlic.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large and deep saucepan. First add the onion and cook it, stirring occasionally until it is translucent. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then add the garlic and stir.
4. Once the garlic and onion are cooked add all of the spices except salt.
5. Turn the heat down to low, pour in the tomato sauce, and cover the pan.
6. Return to the eggplant and pour off any water that has collected on the top then gently squeeze it to remove excess water. Chop the eggplant into bite size pieces.
7. Add the eggplant to the pan and stir it in completely. Recover and let it cook on low for about 20 minutes.
8. Add the diced tomatoes and stir into the sauce. Let it cook for an additional 15 minutes.
9. Taste the sauce and decide if it needs additional salt.
At the end you will have a thick sauce full of eggplant. It is wonderful served over whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, or quinoa. I hope you enjoy this recipe and please let me know how your experience is in the comments!
Moving to Russia was always meant to be a stepping-stone for Andrey and I. For me we hoped that the company in Omsk would provide the opportunity I had been waiting for to grow as a dancer and an artist. For Andrey it was a time to recalibrate and determine his next course of action. As with all plans this one did not go quite as we had hoped. The company turned out to be very different than I expected and for Andrey opportunities were scarce. I will admit that after the first couple months it began to feel like we had made a mistake.
I had high hopes for dancing in Omsk, what ballet dancer hasn’t looked up to the Russian stars of the past or watched those who pepper the roster of every major company today in awe? I was excited to dance in such a large company with many productions. And I hoped to learn the graceful port de bras the Russian ballerinas are famous for. What I got was a bit different. I have mentioned before that class was viewed only as a warm up, which made working on one’s own technique difficult, but what really disappointed me was the rehearsal process.
Unlike in American dance companies, in Omsk they do not prepare a ballet for a few weeks and then perform it for several shows before putting the piece aside and beginning something new. Instead they perform a piece for one show and then again next month or in two months. Which means they are constantly changing what they are focused on and on top of the 4-5 ballets that happen each month there are also children’s shows, musicals, and operas. So, a corps dancer could rehearse 5-8 pieces in one week. Because of this packed schedule the only time a ballet is rehearsed fully is before the first time it is performed in the season. The rest of the season if you are lucky it is 3 days before the show, but sometimes only the day before.
As you might imagine, this schedule makes for some extremely overworked dancers. Unfortunately, this made for a relatively demoralizing atmosphere in which most of the dancers do not really care about the technique or artistry of their work. This was probably the hardest part for me. It made me realize how important it is to me to work with dancers who respect the art form and want to excel at it, understand it, and push its limits.
Instead of spending my time learning the classics alongside dancers I admired I found myself often learning silly numbers for musicals or operas. And a lot of the time I was not used at all because there was no time for someone new to learn choreography the day before a show. In fact this general lack of time meant that the most important quality of a dancer was how long they had been with the company not how talented of a dancer they were.
The Omsk State Musical Theater Ballet Company is a unique place that is primarily focused on churning out tried and true Russian staples that you have never heard of and never will. It is not the grand Russian company I had imagined, but it was an interesting experience and I did learn from it. All of this is not just to vent it is by way of explaining that we have left Russia and returned to the US. I am trying not to think of this as a defeat, but as another chapter in our story together. As for the future I will continue to share moments from our life with you, but now from the nation’s capital.