radiatori with eggplant in meaty tomato sauce

When I’m entertaining, I tend to go completely overboard, with a ridiculously complicated menu and every component of every dish made from scratch. When I’m cooking for myself, I scale it back considerably – I make one-pot meals from sale items and pantry staples. On Sunday afternoons, I make a big pot of something, the something I’m going to eat for lunch all week. This past Sunday, my mom joined me for dinner to watch the Emmy Awards (a week late). We only got about halfway through the red carpet stuff, so no spoilers, please.

This week’s Sunday dinner/lunch is an old favorite of mine. It’s a simplified stovetop casserole version of moussaka. When I’m feeling hot buttered fancy, I’ll make a traditional layered moussaka, with lamb and topped with béchamel, la la la. But for lunches, it’s ground beef, a jar of spaghetti sauce, pasta, seasoning, and vegetables, mixed up messy together and dumped in a bowl, sometimes topped with parmesan cheese. I served this on Sunday in my nice dishes, which are gigantic, so the portions were way too big. Mom and I finished our bowlfuls, but were too full to finish dessert, the caramel apple crisp I made that afternoon.

I started with a butt-ugly eggplant. I bought it over a week before I cooked it, and it didn’t age well in the fridge. It cooked up great, but it looked horrible, full of dents and creases, and the stem was brown and withered. I attempted every angle, but there was no pretty picture of the eggplant.

I hear it on the Food Network all the time that I’m supposed to gently wipe the mushrooms with a paper towel to clean off the dirt. And I did that – I did! For years, I followed the Kitchen Rule of Mushrooms: do not clean mushrooms in water. They will absorb the water like a sponge, and that will ruin their texture and keep them from browning properly.

Well, I was in a big, fat rush on Sunday to get dinner ready (Mom was in the living room watching “Live from the Red Carpet” and calling me in from the kitchen now and again to gasp at something glorious or hideous), so I threw caution to the wind and briefly rinsed the mushrooms in a strainer under cold water, instead of brushing off the grit with a towel. And they turned out just fine. Great, in fact. They were meaty and earthy, and everything mushrooms should be. From now on, I will save my time and rinse the mushrooms. I don’t care what Ina Garten says.

(I totally care what Ina Garten says.)

Recipe after the fold

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