If you don’t have something nice to say you really shouldn’t say it at all, but if I abode by that life rule, my roommate and I would have nothing to gossip about between the hours of 10 and midnight every night and, well, all of you who are expecting a recap of the Carnival cruise I went on this past weekend would be sorely disappointed when the only purely apathetic point I could muster on the subject was “I went.”

So instead you’re going to get outrage and disgust.  Lucky you.


(Before we kick off this roast of epic proportions, I feel compelled to remind everyone that I did not go on this cruise by choice.  Every year as per our Medical Scientist Training Program grant stipulations, our MD/PhD program must go on a retreat.  Think of it part weekend away, part bonding experience, and part science conference.  People present on the work they’re doing in their PhD’s, there’s a poster session, and alcohol abounds.  Generally these are a day and a half long, a weekend at most, and take place in Tarrytown, New York.  Until the summer of 2010, that is, when our program’s administrator discovered it was actually cheaper to go on a Carnival cruise for five days than for us to trek it to almost-upstate New York for a day and a half.  So now we’re switching off between the two.)

Let’s start off on a happy note, shall we?  Possibly the only mildly okay thing about the trip was our room.  My roommate and I roomed together on the boat and after having to endure living in a circadian rhythm-disrupting, constantly pitch black room with no windows last year (if you want to induce seasonal affective disorder early, this is the way to do it), decided to upgrade this year to a room with a balcony.  There was sunlight and a couch and room to actually walk from one end of the cabin to the other.  Worth every extra penny.

That, and the science talks given by my classmates (and then being able to gossip about them with Anu afterwards) were definitely the highlights of the trip.

Which brings us to everything else.  Ugh.

Let’s start with the food, shall we?  I actually don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything more inedible in my life.  And I know you’re thinking, well Joanne, you’re kind of a food snob…but my darling roommate who happily eats pizza and Chipotle and Chinese take-out every day couldn’t eat it either.  I really can’t even explain why it was so awful other than that everything was either deep fried, dripping in some kind of low quality oil for no apparent reason, or covered in about 2 inches of American cheese.  Now I like American cheese in some very appropriate instances, like on grilled cheese or in mac and cheese.  But on a fajita wrap?  Or layered on top of polenta?  Not so much.  The vegetables were also all really wet.  And had this strange musty taste to them.  So Anu and I didn’t eat for four days.  We tried, we really did.  But after approximately three bites of everything, it was either forge ahead and hurl or go to bed hungry.  And, um. We chose the latter.

Then there was the “coffee”.  I’m pretty sure that actually they just took 1/4 cup of dirt, swirled it around in a pot of hot water and added some brown food coloring for good measure.  At least that’s what it tasted like to me.  So not only was I starving, but I also had a caffeine headache the entire time.  FUN. Definitely.  If you think I didn’t spend our entire day in St. John (New Brunswick) in Starbucks with an americano being IV dripped into my veins…you’d be wrong.  Very wrong.

Did I also mention that this boat also entered a time warp as soon as it set sail such that there was no Wifi, 3G, 4G OR cell phone service on board?  Well, they claimed there was Wifi, actually (at a totally reasonable cost of $94 for 240 minutes!!!) but I have yet to encounter anyone who actually got it to work.  So…so much for that.


I could probably go on endlessly about how tacky all of the decor and entertainment was.  How frustrating it was for me (a mostly non-drinker) that everyone’s plan of action for the night, all four nights, was to end up drunk in the boat’s only dance “club”.  But I won’t.  No one likes a Debbie Downer, even if she comes bearing food.

So to sum up…I just didn’t have fun.  Which is kind of the opposite of the point of going on a cruise.  It was a waste of a perfectly good weekend.  And I almost cried of happiness when I got home.

Anu and I booked it off that boat as early as possible (seriously, I’m pretty sure we were the third people to disembark), cabbed it home and brewed ourselves the largest most delicious cup of coffee.  Ever.  It was glorious.

Then I headed to the grocery store.  Because if there was one thing I couldn’t live without for a second longer, it was food.  And vegetables.  Many vegetables.  None of which were covered in any amount of weirdo slime.  Win.

This stew was really the perfect welcome home dish because not only was it rife with the fresh flavors of summer but it was hearty enough to make up for the fact that I’d barely eaten for four days.  And to fuel some serious brainstorming as to why I’m going to be inexcusably busy this week two years from now when someone tries to coerce me into going on the cruise again.  It’ll be my parents’ 32nd anniversary? My 27th half birthday?  Hmm. I’ll work on it.

Speaking of groceries….those living on the Upper East Side, did you know that TOMORROW a new Whole Foods location is opening up on 57th and 2nd???  I got to go on a pre-opening tour of the store yesterday and let me tell you,k it is going to be gorgeous.  Just gorgeous.

The official opening “bread breaking ceremony” will take place on Thursday morning at 8:30 if anyone wants to attend! Not only will Whole Foods be celebrating their opening but they will also be donating 57 salad bars to schools throughout the five boroughs.  This donation will be made in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and Whole Kids Foundation, a Whole Foods Market foundation dedicated to improving childhood nutrition through increased access to healthy foods.  In addition, even if you can’t make it to the opening ceremony itself, 5% of the total sales from opening day will also go to the school salad bar donation so stop by, spend some money and check out the new digs. I know I will!


Summer Potatoes Stewed with Eggplant, Peppers, and Olives
Serves 4-5, adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen


  • 2 medium eggplants
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 lb new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced thinly
  • 2 large bell peppers, red and yellow if possible, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/3 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1 14 oz can cannellini beans, drained


  1. Using a peeler, remove strips of skin from the eggplant to give it a striped effect, then slice it diagonally, about 1/4-inch thick.  Toss with salt and set aside for 20 minutes or longer.  Rinse and pat dry.  Heat half the oil in a wide skillet, add the eggplant and turn it right away.  Cook over medium heat until golden on the bottom, then turn and cook the second side, about 10 minutes.
  2. While the eggplant is browning, heat the rest of the oil in a large pot.  Add the onion, potatoes, and peppers.  Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 6-8 minutes.  Lower the heat.  Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the tomatoes and 1 cup water.  Add the garlic.
  3. Add the eggplant, olives, and cannellini beans and gently mix everything together.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook slowly until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes or longer if time allows to really let the flavors meld.


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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72 Responses to Summer Potatoes Stewed with Eggplant, Peppers and Olives

  1. Beth says:

    That cruise sounds utterly dreary, and I’m sorry you had such an awful weekend. If there’s anything worse than the “Hey, we’re drinking, so we must be having fun” attitude, I don’t know what it is.

    Welcome home!

  2. While your cruise sounds horrible, that pre-opening of whole foods sounds like heaven!! Jealous!

  3. Amy says:

    So the best weight loss plan is a carnival cruise line trip. Got it! 😉 I bet being back on dry land and among vegetables never felt so wonderful. Enjoy the 360 days until you have to endure it again!

  4. Sorry that you had such a bad experience with cruise.
    I would prefer sit at home watching Mad Men with a bowl of summer potatoes!

  5. Gorgeous recipe! I love the color and the flavors look awesome! Now that everyone’s talking about fall and the weather is cooling off a bit, I’m craving more comforting dishes like this. Love it!

  6. OohLookBel says:

    Oh, you poor thing, I hope next year’s outing is heaps better. But there’s nothing like a big plate of non-slimy veges to make you happy again. Lovely dish, as always.

  7. Aaaah away conferences are the worst. I’m sorry the entire thing was such a nightmare. Treating yourself to delicious, healthy, comfort food is definitely the right way to recover and this recipe looks awesome. And now the retreat is over and you don’t have to worry about it anymore (until next year).

  8. Cruise ships, Disney World and any place with large numbers of children are my worst nightmare. These potatoes, on the other hand, deeelightful!

  9. Saguna says:

    Yikes, I’m surprised you all didn’t contract serious cases of scurvy… This stew looks like the perfect thing to get settled back in at home and make up for the lack of edible veggies on board!

  10. Mary says:

    Ugh. Your trip sounds horrid. I’m sure than between the HUGE cup of coffee and a deliciously healthy meal like this one, you are in heaven at home now. Have a blessed rest of the week!

  11. Oh dear. I am so sorry to hear about the trip! It really doesn’t sound fun AT ALL. 🙁
    Thank goodness you’re home safe and sound, and hopefully you’re surrounded by healthy, delicious food and quality coffee! There’s really not much worse than coffee that tastes like dirt…

  12. Sorry about the cruise, that sucks! But it’s over with, your home, you now have WF near you and you had one heck of a glorious cup of coffee! Not to mention this dinner you prepared looks so darn good! I am vegetable craving today!!

  13. Danielle says:

    Id like to say I’m sorry your cruise was bad but the again you went on a cruise and I can’t help but be a little jealous right now (kids fighting and screaming in the background as I type this)

  14. Kristina says:

    Haha you poor thing on that cruise! Not even good coffee…?? That’s horrible.

    I’m loving your stewed potatoes though! I’ve been craving veggies like crazy too – its been such a busy week that if I eat one more Potbelly sandwich there’s going to be a problem… 🙂

  15. Oh what a nightmare… I have never been on a cruise but when I hear that word, I envision fancy food, cocktails, and a gorgeous dessert table. On a boat for five days, with terrible food is the worst. We travelled by boat from island to island back home and I could barely stand 2 hours without getting sick.

  16. Oh no you poor thing! Home is always better anyway. 😉

    Those stewed potatoes look soooo good! I can never resist potatoes in any form or shape and this dish looks so flavourful…I would totally stuff myself silly until I can’t move…

  17. Pam says:

    I thought cruises were supposed to have great food!!!

  18. And this dish… Send this recipe to that cruise ship’s chef and teach him what should food taste like.

  19. That looks so warm and comforting. Love it when food can make you feel somehting before you ever even dig in.

  20. Monet says:

    Oh dear. Yes. I know your pain. There have been times, recent times, in which I am SHOCKED by what people are serving as food. And you, my friend, know the difference between good food and well…what some people eat. Thank you for shairng this dish. It looks perfect. And I have a whole bag of potatoes. Even more perfect.

  21. daphne says:

    the cruise sounds horrible!!! and disgusting may I add. Real food is so much better- and that stew looks just like what one need after such an ordeal!

  22. Ruth Daniels says:

    What a truly horrifying experience. I agree with Margie (comment above)… give him a few lessons!

  23. Sorry you had such a rough time on the cruise! This looks like a great meal to welcome yourself home!

  24. Jenna says:

    Ooh, your pics are especially dreamy (and appealing) in this post. There’s something about them that’s just connecting directly with my salivary glands. And I’m sorry about the wasted weekend on the hideous cruise–I’d hate to be trapped on a boat with gross food and no good coffee too. Ick.

  25. Tandy says:

    The food on your cruise sounds positively revolting! I stayed on E52nd street so I know where you are talking about 🙂

  26. Dining Alone says:

    That cruise sounded miserable. I have never had any desire to go on a cruise and that just solidified my choice 🙂 Your stew looks fabulous.

  27. The silver lining here is also this amazing comforting dish…I love the Canellini beans in this =D

  28. Shannon says:

    that cruise? sounds aweful. i’ve only been on one and i didn’t love it, so to be forced there with fellow students… you’d have to gossip 😉 love the donations of salad bars!

  29. Karen says:

    What a waste of a cruise, huh? The potato dish looks delicious – love it!

  30. Erin says:

    This post was my introduction to your blog (I’ve heard godd things). Great recipe, photos and hilarity? I’m in!

  31. Eileen says:

    Bleah, that sounds like an awful weekend! It seems so weird that a medical school event would have such unhealthy food. And the cruise went to New Brunswick?? That makes no sense at all. Glad you have escaped to the land of real food!

  32. I went on a cruise once. We hit a storm a few notches below a hurricane – most of the cruise was throwing up from about 6pm to 6am the last night. I’m with you my friend- cruises are not the way to go. woof! at least potatoes are!

  33. Damn Joanne that sounds horrible! I would have been booking to the grocery store and for a good cup of coffee as well. At least you got some good stories out of it!

  34. Hotly Spiced says:

    I’m so glad the room was okay but the rest of it sounds appalling. There are cruise ships and there are cruise ships and the one you were on is certainly what I would describe as a floating casino full of tackiness and bad taste. That food sounds horrendous but I can just imagine it. I’ve heard nothing good about the Carnival Cruise Line. How many bowls of this lovely potato dish did you eat on your return? xx

  35. Ugghhh I can’t imagine not eating for four days! That whole trip sounds like a freaking nightmare. Why do people feel the need to make vegetables soaking wet. It’s simply absurd!!! Anyway, glad to hear you’re back to reality, and can be your usual chipper self!..where there’s coffee 🙂

  36. Love all the pretty colored potatoes~

  37. tigerfish says:

    Oh I totally get your point about getting all the vegetables you could, cooking them and eating all the veggies you can esp. after back from a trip like this! :O I could never get the quantity and quality of veggie dishes when I am out….seriously.

  38. Debbie says:

    The cruise sounds awful and I’m so sorry you had to waste your time there. Maybe Carnival needs a refresher course on cooking good food and brewing coffee. Your eggplant and potatoes look delicious and I’d love that right now. Whole Foods is definitely a great store….could spend hours there! Don’t know if you have a Wegman’s near you but you would love them too!

  39. Chris says:

    We’ve taken two cruises with Carnival and they were not bad at all but that was 4 or 5 years ago and a lot changes and ages. Bummed to hear that yours didn’t go so well.

  40. That sounds appalling. Utterly appalling. I’m so sorry. 🙁 I can endure nearly anything, hard beds, crappy showers, awful view, so long as the food is good. So glad you made it home in time for hot coffee and this delicious stew. 🙂

  41. Christine says:

    At least it’s over with for this year 🙂 and now, as you said think of a really ironclad excuse for the next cruise. Not having had to go, it was fun to read about it. Why is it so hard for service companies not to get food and coffee right? Sounds like Florida continued.

  42. Candace says:

    I love Whole Foods and there’s not even 1 in the whole state of New Hampshire. Can you believe that? Your trip sounds positively dreadful. Most people talk about the wonderful times that they have on cruises and that almost always includes the food. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out like that for you.

  43. Pam says:

    I am sorry you didn’t have fun on the cruise… terrible food is the worst! This potato dish looks amazing – I love the olives!

  44. sophia says:

    Darn, sorry you didn’t enjoy your trip. A cruise sounds fun in theory, but the only justification I can think of for going on one is the food and a honeymoon where you want to test your new husband/wife’s patience/love.

    Anyway. I just bought a 5lb sack of potatoes, so this recipe shall do nicely.

  45. That Girl says:

    As I recall, last year’s cruise was a disaster too. Maybe next year you can come down with SARS or the Bubonic Plague so you don’t have to go.

  46. Johanna GGG says:

    Sounds like an interesting research project but not one that I would like to participate in – maybe next year you could take over the ships kitchen – then when the others are boozing all night you could be concocting marvwllous meals (though it would be a shame that all the boozing would mean not much was kept down for long)

    Love your stew – sounds delicious

  47. oh my! i’ve never made stew with olives before! sounds great!

  48. Kari says:

    Oh Joanne 🙁 I share your pain because I would have disliked every one of the things you disliked, and when I did my PhD, those sorts of ‘retreats’ were optional, and I opted out. Ugh. I am glad you’re home and back to delightful meals like this!

  49. Lynn says:

    Note to self – no Carnival cruise. It sounds dreadful. And a retreat you MUST go on and you had to pay for it???

    I like the look of that stew – must try it.

  50. I am so sorry the cruise sucked ass… well the food did… and your drunk co-workers did… them researcher folks don’t seem to get out much, I suppose. Next time, ditch the cruise and come visit me!! Heck, come visit me anytime! Delicious food for the masses. Btw, what’s that leaf in your top photo? I don’t recognize it.

  51. I’m so sorry you had to endure those 5 days of hell…sounds absolutely horrible. A retreat in upstate ny in the woods is so much more fun! Those cheapos. Anyway, I’m glad you survived to tell the tale and that you’ve graced us with this delectable recipe. It sounds so good…stew has me wanting the weather to get cold so badly!

  52. Camila Faria says:

    Bad food and coffee??? No way! I’m so sorry you had to experience that!

  53. Cathleen says:

    Oh wow. I was expecting a super awesome fun filled cruise. I mean, the word cruise just sounds fun. Maybe it’s because I have never been on one.
    This looks like a fantastic welcome home meal.

  54. Katie says:

    Sorry to read you had such a horrible experience on Carnival. I’m going on my 9th cruise with them next month to Europe (14th altogether). I will admit that over the past year I have seen a decrease in food quality (much more fried items), but I’ve also tried to only cruise on some of there newer ships that have a lot more amenities and higher-end food choices. I agree with the coffee–not a fan, but that paid coffee is actually not all that bad.

    As for this stew… it looks gorgeous and I think you were right at the fact that it was exactly what you needed.

  55. Elizabeth says:

    Your eggplant stew sounds fabulous.

    Your cruise description was fabulous as well but for all the wrong reasons. How on earth do some companies manage to ruin everything? I certainly understand that they have to keep their overhead costs down but surely they could do that without sullying everything with plastic cheese. I have to wonder if they even bothered to hire anyone to put together the disgrace you described. Perhaps they had monkeys in the galley…. Remind me never to go on a cruise.

    (I’m with you; flat cheese has its small place in a few dishes but it absolutely should not be considered as a replacement for actual cheese.)

  56. What a bummer =( I’ve never been on any cruise, so I have nothing to compare it to, but ugh. This would be such a comforting welcome home dish, though!! It sounds so good…summery and rich.

  57. Roz says:

    You simply amaze me Joanne! I just cannot figure out how you do it all with med school, running marathons, perfection photography, mouth-watering cooking. . . . well, like I said, “just amazing”! And I love this recipe with all of the ingredients so perfectly fresh from the garden. If I don’t get right back to you when you post or comment on my blog, please know that I’m knee deep in simply trying to undergo physical therapy after my back surgery at 57 years young. I hope to be back to my normal speed soon!

  58. teresa says:

    oh man! that does not sound fun at all! american cheese on fajitas?! please. i’m glad you’re home and safe and sound.

    yay for the whole foods, i love that store!

  59. This is exactly what I would want to eat after that experience too! I can’t imagine not eating (or only eating slimy/fried things) for 4 days – I’m glad you survived!

  60. Gloria says:

    Oh dear I understand these days days were suck to you:(
    I remember years a go we always go to my mom in law in the summer (dont cooked bad) but Not my style so I almost dont ate (nice because I lost some pounds) but really sometimes I feel hungry oh dear.
    This stew look amazing is my style:)

  61. Ranjani says:

    American cheese on polenta? What? Ew. Anyway I’m sorry you had to endure such grossness but this dish sounds like the perfect way to recover. I need to cook more of Deborah Madison’s recipes

  62. Gorgeous potatoes! I need to move past my distaste for eggplant – you’ve had so many great recipes with it lately!

  63. What an amazing vegetable dish – I love it.

    Now about this cruise. John and I have been on two cruises in the Caribbean and both by Princess and we won both of them. I would never ever go on another one even if they gave us free tickets.

    The shows are boring, the food is shit and if you don’t want to gamble or swim with 2000 others trying to find a spot in the pool, there’s sex. Seriously, how many times can you have sex a day without even that becoming boring? It was like being locked in a hotel. a bad hotel.

  64. Carolyn Jung says:

    OMG! Even the coffee was bad? Boy, that’s pretty sad. I’m glad you made up for it with this fantastic stew. 😉

  65. So sorry about the bad food and coffee! What a freaking nightmare! As for this stew – this is absolute perfection! And I love the eggplant in this – I’ve been trying to incorporate more eggplant into my diet lately!

  66. This looks like the perfect coming home dinner.

  67. Reeni Pisano says:

    This is the perfect sustenance after that horrible cruise! More delicious eggplant inspiration for me.

  68. Jeanette says:

    This is definitely a dish I would want to come home to after a bout of bad food on a cruise or any vacation. Having been out of town the last couple of weeks, I couldn’t wait to get back home to start cooking again. Headed to the farmer’s market this morning to pick up some fresh veggies – can’t wait!

  69. Nicole says:

    I get you with the can’t live without veggies! I’ve been traveling a ton and when i do have the time to hit up the farmers market, i’m usually leaving town the next day. I’ve been getting the shakes without enough veggies!

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