Greek Pasta Salad

1/2 pound pasta shells
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cube
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons water
1 green or red bell pepper, diced
5 artichoke hearts (14 ounce can), drained, quartered
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, dice
2 tomatoes, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill (2 teaspoons dried), chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano (1 teaspoon dried), chopped
salt and ground pepper to taste
1 cup feta cheese, grated or crumbled
greek olives

Bring a large covered pot of water to a rapid boil. Cook the pasta shells, uncovered, until al dente, and then drain. Rinse them under cold water until cool, and drain again.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the eggplant. Cover and cook for 3 minutes on medium heat. Stir in the salt, garlic, lemon juice, and water. Cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, until the eggplant is almost tender. Add the diced red bell peppers, and if you are using dried herbs, add the dill and oregano. Simmer a few minutes more, until the peppers are cooked but still have some crunch.

While the eggplant and peppers are cooking, place the artichoke hearts, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, scallions, fresh dill, and fresh oregano in a large salad bowl. Add the cooked eggplant and peppers. Stir in the pasta and toss well. Add salt and pepper and more lemon juice or olive oil to taste.

Serve at room temperature topped with the feta and some olives.

Note:
This salad can be refrigerated to serve later, but the pasta may absorb the flavors and need an additional dash of lemon juice and olive oil just before serving.




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