Pasta Salad with Baked Eggplant and Tomatoes

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There are as many pasta salads as there are ingredients. But the method of cooking pasta to serve cold is always the same, and the secret is to prevent the pasta from sticking together by stirring the boiling water when you add the pasta. When draining the pasta, you can rinse it under cold water until it is cold and then toss it in oil. While this is the easiest method, it robs the pasta of maximum flavor. More trouble but more delicious is to toss the pasta in olive or herb oil while it is hot so that it absorbs the oil’s flavors. You must toss the pasta until it is well coated but not swimming in oil, put it in the refrigerator, and take it out every minute or so and toss it again, until the pasta is cold and all the pieces are separate. The salads that follow are main courses.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound dried spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 cup herb oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 Japanese eggplants
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ½ cup tomato concasse
  • 12 small yellow tomatoes

Method

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta, and stir for 1 minute. Cover the pot so that it comes back to the boil as soon as possible and then remove the cover. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and immediately toss with ½ cup of the herb oil. Cool as described in the headnote. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the eggplants lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices and put the pieces on a sheet pan. Brush with the remaining herb oil and season. Cover the pan with foil. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes.

Set aside 24 of the best-looking middle slices of the eggplants. Chop the remaining eggplant and then mix with the garlic, vinegar, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the lemon juice with salt and pepper and whisk in the olive oil.

Put the eggplant slices on plates. Divide the pasta into 4 portions and twist into nests. Put the nests in the center of each plate. Spoon the chopped eggplant over the pasta. Toss the tomato concasse in the lemon dressing and put on the plates. Cut the yellow tomatoes in half, dress them, and put them on the plates. Pour any remaining dressing over the eggplant and serve.

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