Saturday, 1 September 2012

Roasted eggplant, mushroom and bean pasta salad

Summer has been so busy I have had not had time to come here. I have a huge list of recipes I want to try and some new ideas of my own but am amiss to find time to actually get into the kitchen.

First, it was the heat. Turning on the oven and having to use the dishwasher would cause the temperature in my apartment to go up 5 degrees (that is a guess). So I tried to cook as little as possible. Then there have been the wonderful trips including a most recent holiday in Tofino. When I have not been kept busy with visitors and holidays I have opted to spend my extra time on the rooftop sipping wine, on the beach warming in the sun and on my friend's stoop drinking her delicious homemade brew. Keeping the garden watered, maintaining some level of fitness by jogging on the seawall and getting to know my new co-workers is filling in those few extra time slots that I would probably otherwise spend in the kitchen.

This weekend, I find myself with a lot of free time to fill. The weather is cooling down, I have no visitors and Mike is glued to his computer, trying to wrap up an intense work contract. Now is the perfect chance to pick up my cooking pace. I have been wanting to remake this pasta salad for the past week but I needed the perfect eggplant.

I made this pasta salad recipe for the first time about 10 days ago, early in the morning just before catching the ferry to Vancouver Island on the way to Tofino. I had roasted an eggplant that I picked up at the farmers market the week before which the vendor had promised me would not be bitter. He was not lying; in fact it was by far the best eggplant I have ever cooked in my home. After roasting, it was so tender, there were few seeds and the skin was soft. Tossed into a pasta salad it was wonderful to eat.

I tried making the pasta dish again a few days later with a not so good eggplant, one with a tough skin and packed with bitter seeds. As a result the entire pasta salad was disappointing. I knew I had to make it back to the market to pick out another perfect eggplant before trying to make this recipe again.

It was bright and sunny this morning, I had nothing to do and I also needed a little exercise. I biked over to the farmers market at Trout Lake just before noon, carrying along my bike panniers. When I arrived the tents were packed with people lined up like ants waiting to pay for their bread or heirloom tomatoes or Chilliwack corn. I navigated my way through the throngs of people, trying to be selective in what I added to my sacks. By the end of it my bags were so heavy that I was a little concerned about biking home. Once the panniers were secured on the back of my bike I could barely push it over a speed bump before jumping on the seat. Luckily on the way home I only had a few small hills to climb. I arrived home with my eggplants in tow, among everything else.

I just finished roasting the eggplant which turned out to be just as perfect as the one before. With the eggplant I also roasted fresh heirloom peas and brown cremini mushrooms. The dressing I used is made out of tons of fresh basil leaves, white wine vinegar (last time I used Meyer lemon juice) and high quality extra virgin olive oil from Cannensi. Jenny was in town for a visit, when we went to Tofino, and left me with some lovely Cannensi pastas that I have been using to make this pasta salad recipe. The last touch was to add some thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes.

Roasted eggplant, mushroom and bean pasta salad
Makes about 4 servings
300 g pasta
1 large farm fresh eggplant, cubed
8 large green beans, chopped in 2" pieces
2 cups brown mushrooms, chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Ground sea salt
6 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced

1/2 cup packed basil leaves
2 tbsp white wine vinegar or meyer lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp honey or other syrup
1/2 tsp ground sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Bring large pot of salted water to boil.
3. Cook pasta at a rolling but gentle boil until al dente.
4. Meanwhile, mix chopped eggplant, green beans and mushrooms with 2 tbsp olive oil, crushed garlic and season generously with sea salt
5. Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet with parchment paper and roast 30 minutes - tossing half way through cooking time.
6. Make dressing by blending basil, olive oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), sea salt and maple syrup in a food processor until the basil is chopped into little flecks of green.
7. Drain pasta and run it under cold water. Leave the pasta to drain about 10 minutes.
8. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool while pasta drains.
9. Toss together the pasta, roasted vegetables, dressing and sun-dried tomatoes.
10. Refrigerate about 1 hour before serving, for best results.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, those green shells almost look like leaves instead of pasta! I love this simple roasted veg and pasta combination. :)