There is still mighty fine local summer produce hanging around. Tomatoes are on the vine in some of my neighbors' gardens; zucchini and peppers are still showing up.
And my basil plants are full -- although this week every last leaf will be picked for making batches of pesto to brighten up the doldrums of winter.
This pasta dish is a snap to make and gets most of its flavor from a slew of roasted vegetables: eggplant, onions, summer squash, tomatoes and zucchini. But you can use whichever vegetable combination you want.
There is no sauce, just a little oil and cheese and fresh pieces of basil to top it off, along with garlic and seasonings.
Roasting vegetables at a high temperature intensifies their flavor -- that's why no sauce is needed with this dish. Vegetables such as the onions, tomatoes and zucchini take on a sweet taste when roasted, while the eggplant takes on a hearty flavor.
If you use eggplant, be aware that while it's terrific when roasted, it does have a couple of issues: It soaks up oil like a sponge and can be bitter.
To get rid of the bitterness, most sources recommend sprinkling the eggplant with salt and letting it sit in a colander over a bowl for about 20 to 30 minutes. The salting draws out the moisture and helps prevent the eggplant from soaking up oil. After salting, rinse the eggplant and pat dry before using.
Another trick to keep eggplant from getting soggy is to pour several tablespoons of olive oil on a sided baking sheet and place it in the oven while the oven is heating.
Start cutting the eggplant (and other vegetables) into cubes. Once the oven is heated, remove that baking sheet with the hot oil on it and place the eggplant cubes on it. They will sizzle, but they'll be nearly seared so they won't soak up the oil.
This method is a good way to roast eggplant slices to make veggie sandwiches.
> Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Basil
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 1/2 -inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Favorite all-purpose seasoning
4 yellow summer squash or zucchini (about 1 1/4 pounds total), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium red or white onions, halved and sliced 1/2 -inch thick
1 pint grape tomatoes, rinsed
8 ounces short pasta, such as cavatappi or fusilli
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have ready 2 large (10-by-15-inch) rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil on one large rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven while it's preheating. Prepare all the vegetables.
When the oven is preheated, remove the baking sheet and quickly add the eggplant cubes and garlic to the baking sheet (they will sizzle) and season with salt, pepper and seasoning. Using tongs, toss quickly, but carefully because the oil is hot. Return to the oven and roast until the eggplant is just tender, but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
On the other baking sheet, place summer squash or zucchini, onions and tomatoes. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and seasoning. Toss to coat. Place in the oven and roast until the vegetables are just tender and still hold their shape, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, and return to pot.
Add vegetables, butter, Parmesan and basil to pasta; season with salt and pepper, and toss gently to combine. Serve with more cheese if desired. Serves four.
NOTE: When cutting or slicing eggplant, use a serrated knife, which makes it easier to cut through the sometimes tough skin. You can peel the eggplant if you like, but I prefer to leave the skin on because it looks inviting in the finished dish.
Nutrition information: 474 calories (38 percent from fat), 20g fat (7g sat. fat), 60g carbohydrates, 16g protein, 626mg sodium, 24mg cholesterol, 6g fiber.