Fettuccine with Roasted Eggplant, Peppers and Basil

I am on a Deborah Madison kick. And for good reason. Next weekend, as part of the let's-make-my-birthday-last-a-full-month edict that I issued in the household, we're headed to Greens (the restaurant once under Madison's tutelage). 

I have loved this cookbook well and for quite some time (almost 17 years), but these days I don't seem to cook from it often enough (in fact, I have only posted recipes here and here). Certainly, I have turned to other delightful books by Madison, but it does feel nice to land back home here with one of my favorites.

Much has changed in these past two decades since I acquired this book (I am no longer a vegetarian, I am not afraid to cook a recipe with a long list of ingredients or steps (although this one has neither), I know what a garlic clove looks like), but coming back to this book, with its dog-eared pages and its curving and stained cover, is lovely on this first day of fall. 

So, here I am 40, turning the pages in a book that was gifted to me so handsomely by a dear friend who now lives in Vermont and who wanted me to keep cooking, even as I made many a mistake in that little Utah house we shared so long ago. Nowadays, the CSA box has been regaling us with the end-of-season grapes, eggplant, and peppers, and they have threatened that this past week may be the last of such delights for another year's time. We are preparing our palates to tuck into some chard, kale, and daikon radishes soon, I suppose, but we keep our fingers crossed for another box with a last tomato or cucumber. True, autumn has its music too, or so Keats tells us, but I just want one more over-brimming box of summer fruits and veggies.

Some notes: I cut the olive oil from 6 tablespoons to 4 in the marinade, and it was plenty; in fact, I would argue that you could cut it to 3 tablespoons, but the husband insists that 4 is the perfect amount. Further, I let the eggplants and peppers (both of which I roasted Saturday morning) rest in the marinade for about 18 hours (in other words all Saturday night and most of Sunday day). Results: very flavorful and unctuous with the bite of garlic and the sweet of basil. Finally, the breadcrumbs may seem extraneous, but they may be my favorite part of this dish.  They add a gratifying crunch to a sweet, silky pasta that cannot be beaten. 

One Year Ago: Alton Brown's Blueberry Muffins

Fettuccine with Roasted Eggplant, Peppers and Basil
Adapted from  The Greens Cookbook

Serves 2-4

1 lb fettuccine (fresh or dry)
1-1 1/2 pounds Japanese eggplants
2 bell peppers, red or yellow 
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
20 Nicoise olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Prick the eggplants in several places and place them on a baking sheet with the bell peppers. Bake until both eggplants and peppers are wilted and soft, about 20 minutes.  Set aside the cool.

2.  When the eggplant and peppers are cool enough to handle, slit open the eggplants and peel away the skin.  Tear or cut the eggplant into pieces, and cut the peppers into strips 1/4-inch wide. Combine the eggplant and peppers with olive oil, garlic, olives, and half the basil.  Set aside.  (I did all of this the day before and set aside to marinate overnight.)

3.  Toss the breadcrumbs with enough oil to moisten them and then toast in the oven until crisp and golden.

4.  When you are ready to cook the pasta, bring a pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water, cook the pasta until al dente (if it is fresh, this should take about 3-4 minutes; if is dried, this should take about 7-9 minutes). 

5.  Transfer the eggplant/pepper mixture to a skillet and warm gently over low heat.  When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and add to the heated vegetables. Add the rest of the basil, toss well with tongs, and season with salt, pepper, and vinegar.

6.  Lift the pasta and sauce to individual plates; garnish each plate with the bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.


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