This medley of Mediterranean flavors comes off more as a warm salad than a pasta main. Salting and roasting the eggplant ensure that the texture will be tender, not rubbery. Serve it with grilled lamb chops or a steak. —Deborah Geering
2 medium or 3 small globe eggplants (about 2 pounds), unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound orzo
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 large red onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped (about 1 pound)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Freshly ground pepper
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the eggplant cubes on a wire rack over a pan. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and let rest for 20 minutes. Discard juices that collect in the pan. Put the eggplant in a large bowl. Toss with 5 tablespoons of the oil. Transfer the eggplant to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, turning once halfway through, until the eggplant is almost tender and starting to brown on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the orzo al dente, drain, and spread out on a dish to cool. Set aside. Heat a 6- to 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 30 seconds. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until just translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and eggplant. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer until the eggplant is tender and the flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Stir in the orzo and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.