Admittedly, I like to break convention. I’m not one to conform to stereo-typing, I don’t mold myself to any expectation and I refuse to adhere myself to a certain role. At home, I’m just as easily found outside shoveling, chopping ice on our north-facing driveway, spreading mulch or digging a hole for a new garden plant as I am in the kitchen whipping up something delicious. I don’t think in terms of ‘mans work’ or ‘womens work’, and while we do have some things in our house that may fall into those categories, I don’t think that any job should be defined by your gender. I would have never succeeded as a single parent for 7 years with that belief.
In my life too, I’m the one who would most likely encourage you to step outside the box. Years ago, in an outing with women I was working with, we spied a parking spot outside our destination on the opposite side of the street from where we were. Here’s me in the backseat telling the driver to make a U-turn, while the other women in the car want to play it safe and go around the block. When I’m in the minority, I tend to be slightly insistent about what I feel, and apparently I was loud enough that the driver whipped around the steering wheel in a speedy U-turn and scored the parking spot. Later she confessed that she’d never done anything like that. I asked her if she liked it, and after a moment’s repose, she replied with a grin “I think I did!” Stepping outside a comfort zone, or taking one of life’s U-turns is hard for some people. I’m generally not one of them.
This trait, good or bad as it can be, is part of me in the kitchen as well, and here it really tends to take off soaring because I’m the majority cook in the family and no one is standing about trying to tell me what to do with a recipe or certain dish. I rarely follow a written recipe, and when I do I’m most always disappointed. I know what I like, and after a lifetime of cooking, making mistakes and blending every ingredient under the sun, I have a storehouse of knowledge in my brain as to what works and what might not. My brain can see how any recipe from any source can become something else altogether, and knows just how to make it delicious.
Take this roasted vegetable pasta dish; I don’t recall the origin of the dish as the only note I have on it says “eggplant, tomato and pasta” – yeah, that’s concise- but I recalled enough to know that you roasted the veggies, pureed them with pasta water and some olive oil and mixed it with cooked rigatoni. I also recalled that the finished dish, while not a beauty queen, was delicious. Sometimes, ‘delicious’ is all I can remember, and really, do you need to know anything else? Well, a method might help.
For my roasted veggies, I used an eggplant and a pint of grape tomatoes, halved. I also cut an onion into eighths, large diced a red pepper and rough chopped six cloves of garlic as additions. Mix it all up in a bowl with a few good glugs of olive oil, some seasoning of choice, and toss.
Don’t give in and add more oil; the notoriously thirsty eggplant will drink up some of it and the rest of the vegetables will get their fair share. Too much oil on eggplant in the oven and it just becomes soggy. Spread the veggies out on cookie sheets, with plenty of room, and roast at 400 until the tomatoes are nice and wrinkly, the eggplant is browned and everything smells amazing. This took me about 25-35 minutes.
Cook the pasta while the veggies roast. You want the pasta water for the puree; I always place a pyrex measuring cup in the colander to help remind me to catch that good starch. Drain the pasta, reserving up to two cups of the water. Keep the pasta warm.
Place the veggies in the food processor with some salt and pepper. You can save some of the roasted pieces to top the pasta, if you wish.
Add in about a cup of the pasta water and another healthy glug of olive oil. Whir the veggies to a consistency of choice- I like it a bit chunky- and scrape down the sides. Now take a look at the mix- it should be fairly thick. Add in a little more pasta water to make it to a spreading consistency. If it’s too thick, it won’t coat the pasta well enough.
You can also add in some kalamata olives, and be sure to have some fresh grated parmesan ready.
And if you’re like me and enjoy something crunchy, toasted and seasoned on top of your pasta, make some bread crumbs. I took a shortcut this time and put the remains of these bagel chips through the food processor.
Oh my, this was a really good addition!
Once the veggies are processed, scoop some of the puree onto your rigatoni or other large shape of pasta. This is such a hearty dish that a tiny shape would get lost in amongst the lovely vegetable mix. You may not need all the puree so add as you go to make it the consistency you like. Stir, taste, season with salt and pepper and taste some more.
Then, take your serving, add in the parmesan and crumbs and pick up a fork.
Mmmmm….. who needs convention anyway??
The puree was really thick and delicious- not so visible in these photos but trust me…each bite was a huge flavor burst in the mouth. There was plenty left over even after I coated the pasta with quite a bit. The next day I could hardly wait to take the remains of the vegetable mixture, spread it on toasted peasant bread and top it with fresh mozzarella. This made for a quick and delicious light lunch. I also think it would make a wonderful appetizer for a party.
Ok, if you need a set of instructions, follow the jump…..
Roasted Vegetable Pasta
1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 medium yellow onion, cut into eighths
1 red pepper, seeded cored and cut into large chunks
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4-6 cloves garlic, rough chopped into large pieces
Salt and pepper
1 # rigatoni
Fresh parmesan cheese
Chopped kalamata olives
Place vegetables into a large bowl. Pour about a half cup of olive oil over them and add dried seasoning of choice. Toss to coat. Place on cookie sheets and roast in a 400-degree oven for 25-35 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and fragrant. Gently stir once during the cooking.
Cook pasta to al dente. Drain, reserving pasta water and keep pasta warm. Place roasted vegetables in food processor and add a cup of reserved pasta water, 1/3 c. olive oil and about a tablespoon of kosher salt. Grind in some fresh black pepper. Process until mixture is chunky, scrape down sides and process to desired consistency. If mix is too thick, add some more pasta water. You want it to be spreadable but not drippy, thick but not gloppy.
Toss vegetable mix with warm pasta. You may not need it all so scoop accordingly. Toss to coat pasta, add in kalamata olives (if desired) and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Ok, did that make any sense? I hope so!