Sometimes I get so absorbed in whatever I am cooking that I forget (or don’t have time) to take any photos. This was pretty much the case last night at dinner.
Things started simply enough. I was inspired by a delightfully spare suggestion from Alice Waters’ cookbook, Chez Panisse Vegetables. Here was the entry:
“I can do that,” I thought. We have zucchini, I just bought a case (24 1-lb. bags) of organic walnuts from California, and we now have some Genovese pesto from Gustiamo. Seems like a win all around, but it will take time to make the fresh pasta. No worries. I have time. And flour, appropriate pasta flour. Let’s go!
Of course, when I have time, I tend to think about options — to make the best dish I can, with what’s available. That’s when things get a little more complicated. I’m always conscious of what’s in the refrigerator that may need to be used before it spoils. A small graffiti eggplant was in the category, so I decided to consider that. Also, since walnuts don’t appear in too many recipes with eggplant, I decided to do more research in my cookbook collection. Viana LaPlace’s book, Verdura, popped up with a recipe that included both — Fresh Pasta with Eggplant, Tomato, Ricotta and Walnuts. That intrigued me, but alas, we had no Ricotta. Hmmm, what to do?
How about making a dish that combines ideas from each of these? Instead of ricotta, I had a small bowl of whipped feta cheese I made a few days earlier. That would go nicely. And we had only one small plum tomato, and I liked the idea of the julienned zucchini, so I made Fresh Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini, Tomato, Whipped Feta Cheese, and Walnuts.
My fresh pasta was made from 100 g ’00’ flour plus 100 g Maiorca flour, plus 2 extra large eggs, a little salt, and a glug or two of Sicilian olive oil. The rest of the steps:
- julienne the zucchini on a mandoline
- dice the eggplant
- salt the vegetables for 1/2 hour, then wipe dry (multiple paper towels), and sauté separately, then keep warm in a 200˚ F. oven
- peel and finely dice the plum tomato
- toast the walnuts in a cast iron skillet, cool completely, then chop coarsely
- grate the Parmesan cheese and take the whipped feta cheese out of the refrigerator
- cook the pasta, drain, and save 2 cups of pasta water
- place the feta cheese at the bottom of a warmed serving bowl, add some of the pasta water, then add the cooked pasta, zucchini, eggplant, chopped tomato, and the walnuts
- mix everything together well and serve in big pasta bowls
- pour a glass of Masseria del Pino Nerello Mascalese
The only food photo is the uncooked tagliatelle, since I used 2/3 of the recipe for the meal.