As summer winds down there are two things that I’m going to miss dearly: tomatoes and eggplant. I wish I could hold onto them all throughout the winter. And I wish I had bought a ton more tomatoes and worked my butt off to preserve them. Alas, I don’t live in a perfect world, and don’t have enough time, money, or talent to bottle up all of my tomatoes and keep them lasting throughout the winter. Instead, I decided to make one last summery dish to pay tribute to the last of the season’s fresh tomatoes and eggplant. I used white eggplant from our CSA, and it was really a treat.

This is a Mark Bittman dish, which is significant because I went to see Mr. Bittman speak at the Free Library of Philadelphia immediately after eating this meal. It was a real treat to see him in person, to hear him speak, and to reflect on his opinions and ideals of “sane eating.” He recently released a new cookbook, The Food Matters Cookbook, with over 500 recipes to help you live a healthier, more sustainable life. I already have over 2,000 of his recipes in How To Cook Everything, so I opted to purchase his original Food Matters: A Guide To Conscious Eating, with a mere 75 recipes. I even had it signed. What a treat!

Pasta with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Breadcrumbs
from Mark Bittman

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs*
freshly ground black pepper
5 small white eggplant, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch chunks
6 small or 3 medium tomatoes (about 12 ounces), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2- to 1-inch chunks
1 to 2 teaspoons thinly sliced garlic, to taste
1 pound spaghetti, linguine, or other long pasta
chopped fresh basil or parsley leaves for garnish

* To make fresh breadcrumbs, cut the crusts off of stale white country bread, or any white bread. Use about 4-5 pieces. Pulse in a food processor until bread breaks up into tiny and pea-size pieces. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to a week for later use.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put half the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring almost constantly, until nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes; sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper as they cook. Remove with a slotted spoon and add the remaining oil.

Add the eggplant, stirring occasionally and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. When it’s done, begin cooking the pasta in the boiling water until tender but not mushy. Add the tomatoes and garlic to the eggplant; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.

When the pasta is done, drain it and toss with the eggplant mixture, the bread crumbs, and the meat if you used it. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish with basil, and serve.

Like most of Bittman’s dishes, this was utterly simple to make, and bursting with flavor. I opted to use angel hair pasta instead of regular spaghetti or linguine, and I think I used a bit too much. I was disappointed that I didn’t have a bite of eggplant or tomato in every mouthful. But it didn’t ruin the meal. It was perfect for a cold and rainy October day, it reminded me of a few weeks back when we were still basking in the sunlight and enjoying an unlimited amount of summer produce. Oh well, to next year!