I love eggplant so much that it is indeed a mystery as to why I don't cook with it more often. Both last week and this week we have gotten huge, firm gorgeous eggplants in our CSA box. None of that sponginess you can find in an eggplant that's been sitting around in the store...and a more beautiful color I can not imagine!
We happened to watch an old Jacques Pepin cooking show on WILL soon after that which used eggplant so we decided it was meant to be. Watching Jacques Pepin with Ernie is more fun than I can tell you. He just loves him.....what he wants most in life is to have Jacques Pepin for his neighbor....so he can say, "Ernie, come over and have a glass of wine with me." Now you have to imagine Ernie telling you all that in his fake French accent. Anyway....this looked delicious so we gave it a try the other night and it was wonderful. There is a HELL of a lot of garlic in it---enough that I turned him down when he tried to give me leftovers for lunch the next day. I didn't think my colleagues would enjoy me stinking quite so much like garlic all afternoon. And it is a rare recipe indeed when I would say cut down on the garlic but I would on this one. Overall though it is easy and the eggplant and anchovies and greens all melt into the pasta. I always forget the way anchovies just add a nice saltiness to a dish without really screaming about their presence.
He used escarole in his version but I had chard so I went with that. I think any hearty lettuce or greens would work. I imagine the lettuces would soften a bit more....I'll have to try that too.
Rigatoni with Lettuce and Eggplant
from More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin
¾ pound rigatoni
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup sliced garlic
½ tsp red pepper flakes
6 cups torn lettuce (romaine, Boston, escarole; or Chard or other greens)
1 jar (3.5 ounces) anchovy fillets in oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for table
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the eggplant and cut it into 1-inch pieces. Line a baking sheet with a reusable nonstick mat or spray with nonstick spray. Spread the eggplant pieces in one layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle the pieces with ¾ tsp salt. Bake for 20 minutes, until the eggplant is soft. Set aside.
Bring water to boil and cook rigatoni according to directions.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute. Add the lettuce. Mix well, cover and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the eggplant and ½ tsp salt and mix well. Cut the anchovies into ½-inch pieces and add them along with their oil to skillet. Mix well.
Remove one cup of the pasta cooking water and add it to the eggplant mixture. Drain the pasta and combine it with the eggplant.
Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese and mix well. Divide among four hot plates and serve immediately with extra grated parmesan cheese.