Jan 3, 2012

Pasta tossed with roasted eggplant garlic and peppers. An ode to simplicity

A modest beginning is always a safe way to start. 

I was on a trip to India this last month. Well, in November of 2011. The occasion was my sister's wedding. I had casually suggested designing the menu when the wedding was still an year away. Of course, none takes you seriously, when you 'casually suggest designing a wedding menu'. An Indian wedding that too. Granted my sister's was on the smallish side. But hey, we are still talking four hundred people. And in a small town where I grew up, just randomly coming up with a surprizing twist to a wedding menu may not be...lets just say the best idea. I was warned and almost bulldozed when I told my father that wanted a Turkish-Arabic cuisine inspired menu. No way, He said, would such a different design work. 

All I wanted.... was a meeting with the cook and caterer.

The caterer was ecstatic when he heard the recipes. The cook took some getting used to being told by a woman who wore jeans and had no idea about cooking for 10 people (forget 400!). But soon enough the simple charm of the recipes caught on. Later, that evening over some tea, they told me that the recipes where simple, almost modest and yet so different from the ones he served up that they decided to go with my ideas. 

Of course, guests were ecstatic at the fresh new recipes, flavors and all good things that I now forget. The caterer has even suggested making me a business partner. But to me this event underscored one point, which I strive to achieve almost persistently. Modesty works, and nowhere better that with food :) And a small town caterer, a village cook and a fancy blogger got together to make a phenomenal wedding menu.

All this to set you up for a real simple pasta dish. The simplicity of the dish leaves you with a flavorful experience that is tough to find in anything anymore complex than this recipe. All you would need are two roasting dishes, an eggplant and some garlic. Hey wait ...try to get the best pasta. I like fettucine or linguini :)

Pasta tossed with roasted eggplant, onion- garlic and pepper
(Inspired by a recipe posted in the NYTimes)

1 eggplant. Skin off and cubed.
1 big onion. Sliced. 2 medium ones. In any case a cup of this stuff.
6-8 large cloves of garlic. Leave the skin on!
1 Jalapeno pepper. You can also use some bell peppers if you rather not heat up your pasta
6 tbsf good quality olive oil.
3 tbsf vinegar. I like red vine vinegar. But you can use any.
salt and pepper
1/2 lb (that's roughly half the package) of pasta. Try some long ones. I especially love the fettucine or linguine ones.

Lets start the fire !

In this case by preheating the oven to 400F. Toss the eggplants with salt, pepper and 3 tbsf olive oil. Lay on a baking tray and try not to jumble them all up. Spread evenly. In another baking try, mix the garlic (skin is still on), onion, peppers, salt, ground black pepper and the rest of the olive oil. Spread evenly. Bake for 50 mins. Till eggplants are mushy and onions have taken color and turned soft. Alternatively, you can shallow the two sets (cover the one with eggplants, otherwise you may end up needing a phenomenal amount of oil) and cook till both have achieved the above mentioned state of affairs. I am guessing would take ~ 20 mins :).  

Fish out the garlic, take off the skins (should be easy peasy now). Smash it and mix with the Vinegar.

Once these are done and you have taken them out of the oven and allowing them to cool, start the pasta. An important word about Pasta. I thought this was known. But at the wedding I got asked how best to make pasta. So here is the deal. Take a large (very large) pot of water. Cover and bring to a rolling boil. Once that is achieved, remove lid and liberally salt the water. This is your only chance to salt the pasta! bring it back to boil and slowly add the pasta. Take a spatula and stir it. Boil for 8-10 mins. Or go up to 12 min. These are ball park values. But the pasta should be  al dente..meaning there should be bite to it, but would look translucent.It is a good practice to save a cup of the starchy pasta liquid before draining. The pasta when mixing may need some moistening :)

Drain the pasta (don't drain too well) and put in the serving dish. Add the eggplants and onion and the smashed garlic. Toss well. Serve with some full bodied red. I like Cabernet Sauvignion :) An afternoon that got slightly better, hey..even if it is a winter outside :)

Happy eating and healthy living!


Anonymous said...

Looks so light and lovely...perfect for me to make for my self when hubs is working late ...(he's the kind of guy that must have proteins)...but i love light vege dishes like this.The red sounds like a good compliment to the dish too...keep em coming :) ....Nat

The Japanese Redneck said...

400 people. Good grief!

Glad you were helpful.