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Eggplant Parm

 

Visiting our dear friends at their lake house I was designated the night’s cook.  I checked the fridge and found a couple of eggplant more than ready to be used.  At first I was just going to slice, bread and fry as my mom used to do – she insisted that fried eggplant tasted like fried oysters and who were we to argue – but then I remembered that I had brought a couple of jars of passata – that wonderfully rich Italian condensed tomato sauce so decided to look for enough other ingredients to make a version of eggplant parm.  However it was so hot, I didn’t want to turn the oven on so I thought why not give the grill a try……the eggplant would already to cooked and I would just need the heat to melted the cheese and give the flavors time to unite and give that delicious mixture of unctuous vegetable, rich sauce and melting cheese time to dance.

So, that’s what I did – I fried the eggplant, made a quick tomato sauce with the passata and fresh garlic and basil from the garden and sliced up a big hunk of mozzarella from the farmers market that I found in the cheese drawer of their well-stocked fridge.  Even found some pre-ground Parmesan to add that special sharp salty taste that gives that extra oomph to Italian dishes.  Put the mix together, heated up the grill, pulled the lid down and in less than a half flour we had a lovely almost Italian dinner on the deck.  Was my dish a classic – not really – but it sure was good.

Depending upon the amount of eggplant slices you have you can make a single layer, a double layer or even a triple layer of eggplant, cheese and sauce – always ending with a coating of sauce and a goodly amount of cheese to melt over it all.

You will also note that I don’t salt eggplant as many do – I’ve never found it necessary.  

By the way, just simply fried eggplant is a great easy dinner with the arugula on top and a bit of bread and cheese on the side.  And, you know what, the eggplant does kinda taste like friend oysters!

Just Plain Fried Eggplant

Serves 4 to 6 

2 large eggs

¼ cup milk

3 cups breadcrumbs (plain or seasoned, depending upon your preference)

½ cup Wondra flour

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper 

2 medium eggplants, trimmed and cut, crosswise, into slices about ⅜-inch thick 

About ½ cup olive oil for frying

Lemon quarters for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  

 

Combine the eggs and milk in a shallow dish, whisking to blend well.

Combine the breadcrumbs and flour in another shallow dish.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir to blend.

Working with one eggplant slice at a time, dip it into the egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off.  Then, dip it into the bread crumb mixture.  If you prefer a heavy coating, again dip into the egg and bread crumb mixture.  

Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  When very hot, but not smoking, begin adding the coated eggplant, without crowding the pan.  Fry, turning once, for about 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.  Transfer to a double layer of paper towel to drain.  If the oil gets too dark and filled with bits of the cooked coating, pour it out, wipe the pan clean with paper towel, and start again with fresh oil.

When all of the eggplant has been fried, transfer to a serving platter.  If you want to fancy it up, place a few handfuls of arugula in a mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil and the juice of ½ lemon.  Season with salt and pepper and mound on top of the eggplant. Serve with lemon quarters for drizzling on the eggplant.

If you want to make Eggplant Parm, generously coat a baking dish with olive oil.  Coat the bottom of the dish with you favorite marinara sauce, followed by a layer of eggplant and then a thin layer of mozzarella cheese and continue making layers until you’ve made as many layers as you wish, ending with a coating of sauce and a layer of mozzarella.  You can sprinkle in Parmesan at any point including on the top of the final layer of mozzarella. Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until hot, bubbling and the top layer of cheese is beginning to brown.

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We stayed a little longer in San Francisco than we usually do on our Thanksgiving trip.  This gave us the opportunity to do more bopping around the countryside but it was well into preparation for Christmas when we returned to NYC so I didn’t have time to report on all of our good California eats.  One of which was enjoyed in Point Reyes Station at Osteria Stellina.  Point Reyes is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of the world – to get there from San Francisco we drove through misty redwood forests, over grey-brown hills serving as pasture land, along the beach, and around inlets and coves – all the while listening to our companion’s (son, daughter-in-law, good friend) tales of hiking the county’s strenuous trails and kayaking in the surrounding sea.  We did absolutely none of these arduous things but hearing about them made us tired and hungry, so our planned lunch at Osteria Stellina was a most welcome reward.

I can’t begin to tell you about all of the marvelous dishes that were presented to us – being greedy we always want a bit of everything on the menu – but I can tell you that everything we ate was exquisite and so satisfying.  Not only does the restaurant have its own farm whatever doesn’t come from the farm is plucked from local waters, farms, or ranches or foraged from the immediate area.  I do vividly remember the stinging nettle soup that the chef-owner, Christian Caiazzo, welcomed us with – a lovely, rich green and so creamy and smooth that it took all we could do to keep from licking our bowls clean.  We had great pizzas – one with local potatoes – bruscetta – a bountiful seafood stew – lusty beans and greens –  hearty stews and polenta – salads – lots of great Italian wine – and an array of truly not-needed, but gobbled anyway desserts.  As winter comes down on us in the East, I am secretly planning a trip back if only to sit in the comfortable dining room of Osteria Stellina, people watch onto Main Street through the expansive windows, sip a warming Italian wine, and let the chef delight me with his soulful dishes.

 

 

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