Monday, January 9, 2012

Roasted Eggplant Pasta sans tomatoes

Anybody have any good recipes for eggplant that don't involve drenching it in oil?

Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chili Pepper from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" was the evening's original goal. But when I saw that the recipe called for frying the eggplant slices in 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil, I wasn't too disappointed that I didn't have the tomatoes needed for the dish.

Instead, I decided roasting it with onion and garlic in extra-virgin olive oil would not only be healthier, but also quite a bit tastier. It ended up being something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink recipe, but since I had a lot of tasty things in the fridge, it's a combination I would certainly try again.

Still, I admit the end product had a bit more oil (not to mention bacon grease) and salt than I would have used cooking most other vegetables. But maybe both are a necessary evil when cooking with pasta, since they rounded out the dish perfectly.

Penne with Roasted Eggplant
1 medium eggplant, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 medium red onion, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, smashed and divided
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups penne pasta (or other bite-size pasta)
4 slices bacon
4 ounces mushrooms
4 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss eggplant with about 1/4 teaspoon salt in a colander and let sit while you prepare the onion and garlic, from 5-15 minutes. Blot eggplant with a paper towel, then place in 9-by-12-inch baking dish with onion and 2 cloves garlic. Toss with olive oil and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Roast vegetables until fragrant, about 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times to be sure eggplant hasn't soaked in all of the olive oil.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Add remaining garlic clove and cook on both sides until brown. Remove garlic clove, then add mushrooms to skillet and stir-fry until they start to lose their juices, about 4 minutes. Add spinach and about 1/4 teaspoon salt, and stir until wilted. Remove from heat.

When roasted vegetables and pasta are finished, add both to the skillet with the bacon and stir well. Add pepper and child flakes; adjust seasonings as necessary.

Top with feta cheese or serve on the side.

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