Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Still on Eggplant...Favorite Marinated Eggplant!

Melanzane Marinate

2 long eggplant
2 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
White wine vinegar
Whole black peppercorns
Olive oil for frying

Wash and dry the eggplant, cut off the ends and cut lengthwise throwing away the first lengthwise piece (all skin) and make these about 4mm in thickness. Do not skin the eggplant.
Fry in oil (do not flour the slices) and dry them on oil absorbing paper.  Once they are cold, place in a nice terrina and add the garlic cloves cut in half, the bay leaves and the peppercorns, lightly salt and cover it all with the white wine vinegar. Let rest for one night before serving. These are great as an antipasto or to accompany mixed boiled meats.  These should be consumed 3-4 days post preparation.

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Parma for Eggplant Parmigiana! (No Cheese)

Thinking about a friend who the other day decided to make eggplant parmigiana, I had to go to my "bible" cookbook Emiliana and Romagnola wanting to set it straight once and for all the difference between these dishes. 
First off, the ultra famous eggplant parmigiana served in most restaurants in the US and in cookbooks as well, is actually what is called "Parmigiana di melanzane" vs what is made in Emilia Romagna called, "Melanzane alla parmigiana." The former is from Campania (Naples province) and uses heavy amounts of mozzarella. 
Another myth to be exposed is the one when preparing eggplant, was to cover the raw slices with salt. This was supposed to force the vegetable to purge the bitter water contained within. Maybe centuries ago this plant was very bitter but today the varieties we have are far from bitter and the salting actually ruins the delicate flavor of the eggplant and is harmful so, NEVER, ever salt eggplant before use.  :-)

My favorite recipe for Melanzane all parmigiana (Emiliana recipe) is the following:
2 medium eggplant
50 gram prosciutto crudo - thick slice about 1/4 inch
1 small onion
300 gr peeled tomatoes 
50 gram butter
olive oil
salt pepper
Wash and dry the eggplant, but the ends off and slice into rounds.
The slices should be about 4-5 mm in thickness.
Flour them well and fry in olive oil, dry on oil absorbing paper.
In a casserole dish, melt the butter (may substitute olive oil here is desired) together with the super finely SLICED onion. When the onion is nice and transparent, add the prosciutto cut into little cubes. Sautee for two minutes and add the tomatoes.
Salt and pepper to taste and then add the eggplant slices.
Cook over a slow flame, covered for approximately fifteen minutes.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bet you didn't know...

Did you know Italy contains 70% of the world's art? Think about that for a second, a country so small physically is so crammed full of art, monuments, churches, artifacts, tombs and on and on!! It is just amazing to me the whole concept, thinking about the number of people who passed through the country leaving such an imprint and patrimony for the rest of the world to come. No wonder Italy is so short on living space. ;-)

Meucci was the father of the telephone, not Mr. Bell; in fact Bell was well known for pirating his inventions. Marconi was the father of the radio and I bet you did not know the world's first freeway, created conceptually and physically constructed was here is this little land of dreamers and creators. Today the Italian autostrada is one of the best out there that is, if you do not judge it for the curves. With such a lack of space to build freeways, and the fact people will not sell land, the roads have to curve around history and stubbornness, so remember this when you are screaming down the road and have to back off by 50 mph to make a curve and stay alive. They have the best and world's only draining asphalt so when it rains, you can see the road; it is truly amazing (and still drive fast).

Now a quick tip on how to choose Gorgonzola, make sure the mold is not uniformly distributed. You should look for inoculation lines as well as where made. Gorgonzola originated in a small town close to Milan called, obviously, Gorgonzola. Today most of it is produced in the province of Novara and regions of Piedmont and Lombardy.  Try a risotto with Gorgonzola!