I pulled out my Wicca Cookbook for Halloween (or Samhain - pronounced SOW-en - as the pagans call the holiday that takes place from the evening of October 31 through November 1). I found two recipes that I was able to make with ingredients I already had: Chicken-Barley Stew with Herbs; and Eclectic Eggplant, and I managed to time them so that they were both done at the same time!
Using my indispensable cast-iron pot, I sauteed 3 garlic cloves and some chopped scallions in 2 T. of butter, then added cut pieces of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and cooked until brown on all sides. Next I added 3 3/4 c. of water, 3 T. of red wine vinegar, 3/4 c. of barley, and two crushed bay leaves. This was left to simmer for about an hour. I started the preparation of the eggplant about halfway through the cooking of the soup. The eggplant was cut into slices, coated with flour, and then dipped into a mixture of egg, olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper, then coated with bread crumbs. They were placed in a greased baking pan and baked (covered in aluminum foil) at 375 for 15 minutes; then removed from the oven, and topped with tomato slices and shredded mozzarella cheese, then, back to the oven (uncovered) for another 10 minutes. Just before ladling the soup I added some minced fresh sage to it. Everything was served at once and looked gorgeous on our fall-themed table, presented along side some of our homemade mead.
Our first trick-or-treaters arrived just as we were sitting down to enjoy the meal, but it was still plenty warm when we got back from dispensing the candy. James deemed the soup one of his top five favorites. The red wine vinegar gave it a good tangy taste. This turned out to be a good way for the us to prepare eggplant, too, as we are not big lovers of the purple plant, but occasionally get some in our CSA farm box. All the other flavors worked together to camouflage the taste of the eggplant and next time I would even cook it longer, as we prefer our eggplant really mushy.
A hearty warm meal for the start of the Pagan New Year.