CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Pasta With Eggplant And Zucchini

Two of the garden vegetables that are first on the scene during the summer are eggplant and zucchini. Both lend themselves to a variety of recipes. Eggplant Parmesan and moussaka come to mind for the purplish aubergine, while the zucchini version of carrot cake and carrot bread get the nod in many corners.

Pairing the two with tomatoes and pasta is the latest way I’ve made use of the prolific vegetables. The recipe is one that I discovered years ago while working with the former food editor at the Grand Forks Herald, Marilyn Hagerty. Marilyn had a keen eye for interesting recipes.

The following is one she chose to publish. It’s from the late Pierre Franey, who penned the 60-Minute Gourmet column that ran in the New York Times. Like so many of Franey’s dishes, this one is at once elegant and easy, which is right up my alley.

And with an abundance of eggplant and zucchini this summer, I’m sure this tasty entree will find its way to our dinner table quite often.

Pasta With Eggplant and Zucchini
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons dried oregano
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound eggplant
½ pound zucchini
¾ pound dry pasta, like ziti, fusilli, shells or rigatoni
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a saucepan and add the garlic. Cook and stir without browning. Add the tomatoes, parsley, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to blend, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile cut off the ends of the eggplant and peel. Cut it into 1-inch cubes or slices if using Japanese eggplant.
Cut the ends off the zucchini and slice into 1-inch thick slices.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil is very hot, add the eggplant, zucchini, salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until nicely browned and tender. Add to the tomato sauce. Mix well and cook for 15 minutes.
Drop the pasta into salted boiling water and cook to the desired degree of doneness. Drain and reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid.
Return the pasta to the pot, add the reserved cooking liquid, the vegetable and sauce mixture, basil and Parmesan cheese. Toss and serve hot.

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