Our friends got married up in gorgeous Vermont last weekend. I picked bucketfuls of black-eyed susans and queen anne’s lace, jack-knifed off rocks into not one, but two swimming holes, sipped whiskey-with-ice, and crashed under a full moon.The happy couple invited folks to come several days early and help with prep, which was a nice way to save on cost and do-it-yourself and a good way for guests to get to know each other. By the time you’ve chopped vegetables next to someone for several hours, you feel like old friends when it comes time to party. (Also, the fact that there were so many of us coming early to help is a testament to how great these two are.)When I got home, I had a lot of veggies sitting around that needed immediate attention or else were doomed to becoming chicken food or compost. I remembered the big sheet pans of veggies we had roasted in Vermont and how good they had smelled. And there was my answer.Roasting vegetables is not groundbreaking, nor is it news to you, I know. But sometimes it’s nice to remind ourselves how good it is to coax out flavor and caramel-brown-ness with just a drizzle of oil and an un-shy sprinkling of salt. Tamar Adler thinks you should roast all your veggies for the week when you get home from the market, which is different than the way I normally work, but makes good sense. Especially when I consider how quickly this pasta would have come together.
Which brings me to the pasta: Ben buys capellini. I don’t really like it, except with clam sauce. Now, though, capellini has found its place in my heart, via a fistful of roasted garlic cloves, pounded into a spicy, salty infused oil with some red wine vinegar. It slickens the noodles and provides welcome contrast to the eggplant and peppers. We owe this oil to Martha Rose Shulman, whose NYT recipes never fail to elevate the simple to something special with small touches (she’s responsible for the browned yogurt topping idea, too, remember?) Things have been a little crazy around here, so I took a little breather while the vegetables roasted. I highly suggest you do this, too. If you were silly and felt like bopping around you could put on Demi Lovato. I swear I don’t listen to that song. But IF you did listen to songs like that, I bet it could help you momentarily forget about life’s stresses, like that hypothetical work trip to Nairobi you need to leave for in a couple days. Really. (Maybe I’ll squeeze in one more post before I leave, but if not—see you on the other side!)
Capellini with roasted eggplant & peppers
Adapted from the New York Times’ Recipes for Health, Martha Rose Shulman
You will need
For the roasted vegetables:
1 large eggplant, or 3-4 small ones (I had several Japanese eggplants I used), cut into small cubes (1/2-inch to 1-inch)
3-4 bell peppers (mine were an odd light green variety Ben brought home; feel free to use red, green, or anywhere in between), cored, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch strips
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, barely crushed with the flat of your knife
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
For the garlic oil:
7-8 tablespoons good olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
A generous pinch red pepper flakes; more to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
For pasta and assembly:
1 pound capellini
Parmesan, to grate
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
On a sheet pan with low sides, spread eggplant, peppers, and garlic cloves in a layer. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until veggies are tender, and a bit meltingly brown in some spots. Remove from the oven.
Put a pot of salted water to boil. Slip the roasted cloves of garlic from their skins and, in a small bowl, mash up the cloves of garlic and the 3/4 teaspoon salt. Add olive oil, red pepper flakes, red wine vinegar, and a grind of black pepper, if desired, and mix all the ingredients well. Set aside.
When the water reaches a rapid, rollicking boil, add the capellini. Capellini is very thin, so err a little on the low side of whatever your package says—it should really cook to al dente in 3-4 minutes tops. Drain the pasta, reserving just a little pasta water. Toss pasta with garlic oil, eggplants and peppers, loosening it with a little pasta water if necessary. When the capellini is nicely coated with the garlic oil mixture, top the pasta with parmesan, or pass at the table. Serve immediately.