Simple Art of Cooking: Roasted Fall Delights for Your Hamptons Table

Eggplant. Photo credit: Liz West

I love the change of seasons, change of temperature along with change of clothes and cooking styles. It’s simply time to roast. Roasting is in fact one of the world’s oldest cooking methods. In prehistoric times one cooked over an open fire—at some point, spit roasting moved to the hearth, and eventually to the oven. Roasting can be simplicity itself. Put a chicken in to roast and, except for an occasional baste, one can go on to other things or simply sit back with a glass of wine.

Roasting vegetables is a favorite form of cooking as their true flavors develop undiluted by cooking water. Little new potatoes, currently plentiful at farm stands (this is potato country) perfumed with a coat of extra-virgin olive oil and fresh rosemary, roast until crispy without and irresistibly sweet and tender within. I find the jewel-colored eggplants in hues of pale pink to deep purple deliciously appealing. Here I simply roast them to serve as an appetizer or side dish with a savory blend of garlic and herbs.

As the season progresses there will be plenty of time to roast other vegetables such as fennel, cauliflower and the amazing assortment of picture perfect winter squashes that continue to color the landscape at our local farmers markets and farm stands.

Roast farm fresh new potatoes until crusty without and tender within.

Serves 4 to 6

2–2 1/2 pounds small new red potatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Preheat oven to 425°F.

1. Scrub the unpeeled potatoes and pat dry with paper towel. Place, one layer deep, in a baking dish with good heat retention, such as tin-lined copper or aluminum. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle olive oil over potatoes and sprinkle with
rosemary leaves.

2. Place baking dish containing potatoes in preheated oven and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Potatoes will stay hot in the turned-off oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with rosemary olive oil pan juices spooned over the potatoes.

It’s the seeds in eggplant that give it a bitter edge. When you grow your own, or purchase local farm fresh eggplants, you can forgo the first step in the recipe below—simply slice, season and bake!

4 to 6 servings as appetizer or side dish

2 small eggplants, about 2/3 pound each, sliced crosswise about 3/4-inch thick
Kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf, Italian parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons snipped chives
6 to 8 basil leaves, stacked, rolled and sliced crosswise into “ribbons”
Freshly ground pepper

1. Layer eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle each layer with coarse salt. Cover with paper towel and place a weight on top. Let stand for 30 minutes or longer to drain bitter juices. Rinse eggplant slices and pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Peel eggplant around in stripes about an inch apart. Cut root end of eggplant and discard, then slice into 3/4 inch rounds. Spread about 2 tablespoons olive oil on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet and arrange the eggplant slices on top. Press lightly on the slices to coat in the oil, and then turn them over so that they are lightly oiled on both sides. Sprinkle eggplants with salt and bake about 12 to 15 minutes on each side until lightly golden, crisp and tender within. Transfer to a serving dish.

3. Meanwhile, place garlic, herbs, salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl and stir to mix. Add remaining olive oil to just coat the herb mixture and stir well.

4. Spoon a thin layer of the herb mixture on each slice of eggplant to coat evenly.  Let stand at least 4 hours before serving. Or prepare up to a day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature with crostini.

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