Mediterranean pasta salad for a lighter meal on Meatless Monday

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No one's saying you have to go meatless just because it's Monday -- but as incentive to join the growing movement, every week we're offering an animal-free recipe.

This pasta salad is filling enough to serve as an entree, but it will also work as a side. It's easy to prepare and can be served warm or cold; the roasted eggplant and the olives both add a meaty texture that's sure to satisfy.

You will need:

1/3 cup pine nuts 1 small eggplant 4 garlic cloves 2-3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup orzo pasta 1 red bell pepper 1 8-ounce jar pitted olives (kalamata olives are used here, but green olives work, too) 2 teaspoons capers 1 container grape tomatoes Several parsley leaves (1/3 cup or so) Ground black pepper to taste

If you don't want to go fully vegan with this recipe, you can also add some crumbled feta cheese or grated Parmesan.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Spread the pine nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in the oven for about five minutes, until fragrant. After you remove them from the oven, turn the heat up to 450 degrees F. 2. Cut the eggplant into one-inch-thick slices, then into cubes. Drizzle the olive oil over the eggplant and garlic and toss until the cubes are coated with oil. Bake for twenty to thirty minutes, or until the cubes begin to brown on the edges. Lovely. 4. While the eggplant bakes, heat a saucepan full of water and a pinch of salt until it reaches a boil; start the pasta cooking. (It should take about ten minutes.) And you can prep everything else while the pasta cooks -- including draining the olives and capers. Rinse and drain the grape tomatoes, while you're at it. After the olives, capers and tomatoes have drained sufficiently, place them in a big bowl. 5. Dice the bell pepper and throw it in the big bowl. 6. The pasta should be done by now; drain it, then add it to the bowl. 7. Tear some parsley leaves over the bowl, then add the eggplant and the pine nuts. Toss it all together until everything is thoroughly combined. Sprinkle with cheese before serving -- or serve it as-is. Simple and delicious.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.