Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Eggplant Quest and More Bellini's

I decided I could only search for one perfect recipe at a time, so a facsimile of the Venitian eggplant seemed the most attainable for now, I guess. Since I've been thinking about and looking for a way to make this savoury stuff, I've had vague back of the mind recollections of Laurie Colwin's lovely books, Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen , and seemed to remember some fond mention in one of them about the lovely and versatile eggplant. I love these books, and thank goodness, I had the prescence of mind to bring them with me to West Texas when I recently vacated East Texas. Sadly, this charming writer died much too young. Last night, I flipped through these two books and found her eggplant memoirs and the poignant descriptions of how she cooked them a creative variety of ways when she was a young, single writer living on a shoestring in New York. So, today I went to HEB (I love this store!) and got the smallest eggplant I could fine (about 1 1/2 lbs.?), and as Laurie mentions, some Chinese Plum Sauce and garlic. Then I went to one of our 'health food' stores to find Tamari sauce, but they were out. It was too late, and I was too tired to go to the other 'health food' store to look for it, so I decided I would use the Kikkoman Light Soy Sauce I already had in the fridge at home. Laurie Colwin describes her eggplant nights a little differently from mine. She gets home and puts on the coffee while she preps her eggplant, and then responsibly watches the news as she drinks her coffee. I, however, mix a batch (they tend to fizz over the top of your glass less if you mix it up in a big old canning jar and then pour into your elegant Murano flute) of Texas Peach Bellinis and put my sliced eggplant into a bowl of salted water for about 15 minutes while I go watch Divine Design on HGTV. Anyway, I love the way this version of Laurie's eggplant turned out. I ate the whole thing. Someone said that eggplant is a 'greedy guest' -- meaning, I think, that they drink up everything they can. Well, that's true. I put one slice into my tagine (first time I've used it) too soon and it absorbed the entire 1/8 cup of olive oil. So, I decided I would try something different with one half of my eggplant and put it in my non stick frying pan with a coating of non stick vegetable spray on the bottom. They browned and got crispy almost as well as the half that were in the oily tagine. I guess you can decide how much olive oil you want to consume or if you want to risk the non stick coating thing. Anyway, here's the recipe -- (kind of):

Really Good Version of Laurie Colwin's Eggplant

1 semi small eggplant (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
3 cloves of garlic minced
3 golf ball size ripe cherry tomatoes cut into quarters or eighths (I just had these lying around)
olive oil or non stick veg. spray
soy sauce or tamari
juice of half lemon
a tiny bit of plum sauce

Slice the eggplant and put into a bowl of salted water for about 15 to 30 minutes. Take it out and dry on kitchen towel. Get your pan hot then pour in about 1/8 cup olive oil or spray with non stick vegetable oil. Fry the eggplant until golden, then sprinkle on the minced garlic, throw in the tomatoes and squeeze a little lemon juice over all of it. Cover this (the tagine worked great) and turn the heat as low as you can, then let it simmer for about 15 minutes. When the garlic and tomatoes seem done enough for you, drizzle a little soy or tamari over it. I added the tiniest bit of plum sauce, but of course, this is to your taste.

Of course, this is not even close to the Venetian version I was looking for, but it was really good. Kind of interesting how you stumble across good things in your search for something else.

Just in case you're interested, here's my Texas style Bellini recipe too.

4 -5 ripe peaches
1 T. superfine sugar (or to taste)
Prosecco or Champagne

Peel and pit the peaches and put into your blender with about 1 T. of sugar. Blend until pureed smooth.

Fill one third of your champagne flute with the peach puree, then fill up to the brim with champagne or prosecco.
Actually,it's less messy if you mix it up by the batch and then pour into your elegant flute, so here's how you do that:
Pour the peach puree into a big pitcher and then fill with the bottle of Prosecco (or Champagne). Try to have a friend help you drink it lest you fall down.

I use 'Cristolino' which is actually a cava from Spain -- their 'champagne' if only they were allowed to call it that. It's inexpensive and so good. A friend and I did a taste test recently using Prosecco and Cristolino. We both actually thought the Cristolino was smoother and just better tasting all round.

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