Bring the Garden in Friday with Eggplant and Basil


Basil is decidedly Summer, and eggplant, well, it represents transition to me right now. I suppose that where our garden is on this eve of October as I write this.

On this last evening of September, we are also in the midst of a tornado watch. I hope our remaining tomatoes don't fly right off their vines. The garden seems a little fragile right now--that messy, still producing, but decay hovering stage.

This week the garden was brought into the kitchen. We even ate indoors tonight amidst howling winds like any I have heard during a blizzard. It's not hard to remember that sound--our region had three blizzards last Winter.

This pasta dish started from Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza and Calzone. I was drawn to it by the simplicity, however, I needed to appeal to Mark Bittman to fill things out a bit.

By the way, do you see these three perfectly spaced holes on my eggplant? That was some insect's or bird's touch. Very creative, don't you think?

Pasta with Eggplant and Basil
adapted from Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza and Calzone

1 large eggplant
1/2 to 3/4 cup Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
3 handfuls fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 pound fettucine
1/2 cup oil cured olives
Parmesan, freshly grated

Slice eggplant 1/4 inch thick, place in colander and sprinkle with coarse salt. Allow to drain for at least 30 minutes or longer.

Put salted pasta water up to boil.

Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the eggplant slices in batches, one layer at a time, not overcrowding. Add more oil as needed. Cook until nicely browned on each side, then remove to platter to drain on paper towel. Drizzle the red wine vinegar over the browned eggplant slices, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a handful of chopped basil. Allow to marinate while cooking all the eggplant, and repeating the seasoning on each batch. (The recipe says to marinate for one hour. I didn't have enough time for this, but maybe you are able to plan ahead a bit better).

While the eggplant cooks, mince the garlic and chop remaining basil, set aside. When water is boiling, cook pasta.

After all eggplant slices are cooked, add oil if needed to coat the pan. Saute garlic and red pepper flakes, taking care not to brown garlic. Cut eggplant slices into quarters and add to pan. Heat until warm. Add cooked pasta to the pan and toss gently.

Transfer pasta to a larger serving bowl, add olives and remaining basil. Serve immediately with grated parmesan.

Serves 4