Monday, June 30, 2014

Calabrese

Although I've been plugging along and enjoying recipes from My Calabria, I've (once again) been a delinquent blogger. Thanks for putting up with me.

Lo, these many days ago, on June 11, I cooked Tonno alla Menta (Fresh Tuna Pizzo Style with Wine Vinegar, Garlic, and Mint). Coat sliced tuna in flour, then fry briefly in some olive oil before removing it to a plate. Garlic, vinegar, salt, and mint leaves are whisked into the remaining oil, then poured over the tuna. Easy, fast, unusual, and it's meant to be served at room temp. The tuna should marinate in the sauce for at least 30 minutes, and supposedly improves the longer you leave it.
I don't think I've ever cooked a vinegar + mint combo. It was unusual, tangy, and very delicious. I'm a fan.

Conclusion: Loved it.

Unfortunately, that meal wasn't all grand. I'd also prepared Melanzane all'Insalata (Eggplant Salad with Garlic, Mint, and Hot Peppers). I was never much of an eggplant fan before moving to Italy, but I lo-o-ove them here. The eggplants are smaller, thinner, and much more flavorful than the hulking behemoths we get back home.  Not to mention that the Italian nonna's generous, extravagant use of olive oil works wonders when dealing with melanzane. I've often had an eggplant salad as part of an antipasti course in restaurants, and it's always good. I'd hoped that this recipe would turn out similar to those.

It didn't.

This was disgusting.
There's nothing appealing about that.
First of all, the eggplant are left whole, with slits down the sides, and boiled. Once cooked, they dry in a colander for an hour. Then, pour a mixture of vinegar, oil, garlic, hot pepper, mint and salt over the eggplant, and leave at room temp to marinate for 24 hours.

There was nothing good about this. The temperature, slimy texture, and hyper-vinegarized flavor were all totally gross. Neither one of us ate more than a bite. I wasted a lot of eggplant on this one. Not happy.

Conclusion: Hated it.

Another day, I made Pollo con Melanzane (Braised Chicken with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Pancetta). I could do without the chicken in this recipe. The thighs didn't absorb any flavor. They just turned out as your standard chicken thigh. The sauce, on the other hand, was amaze-balls. It reminded me of an easy recipe that an Italian woman that I know here taught me, in which cubes of eggplant are fried in peanut oil, then mixed into tomato sauce, except (shh! Don't tell!) this was even more delicious.
This recipe has you fry the eggplant in olive oil, but I stuck with my Italian's peanut oil. I hate wasting so much delicious olive oil just to fry something.

Cooking pancetta and garlic in olive oil, browning the chicken thighs, pouring in some white wine and letting it evaporate, then adding tomato puree and cooking it down until the chicken is finished takes this sauce over the edge. I want to try this without the chicken. I'm sure the chicken fat adds some flavor to the sauce, but the chicken itself couldn't compete with the sauce. I served mine on cannelini beans, but this would be equally great on rice, pasta, or just on a plate.

Conclusion: Loved it (sans chicken).

Last, but definitely not least, I brought Polpette di Melanzane (Crispy Eggplant Meatballs) to a friend's bbq yesterday. (Can you tell that it's eggplant season?) This is an appetizer that I've had at restaurants, and it's one of my favorite new foods that I've eaten since moving to Napoli. I knew I was going to try this recipe before leaving this book, and this seemed like a prime opportunity.

I was surprised at how easy this was. Boil diced eggplant for 10 minutes. Drain, cool, and squeeze out the water. Then, you just chop it up (it's already pretty mushy), mix it up with breadcrumbs, grated cheese, parsley, garlic, and an egg, roll small balls in more breadcrumbs, and fry in olive oil.
Homina homina homina. FEED MY FACE.
They were so good fresh out of the oil that they almost didn't make it to the BBQ. They were still wonderful at room temp. Two people separately asked me for the recipe. Even Charlie ate one. If my kid will eat eggplant in this form, it'll be a new staple in my house. I had to call them meatballs, but he didn't notice foul play.

It's a pet peeve of mine when I follow the measurements and sizing instructions in a recipe and end up with a drastically different number of items. I am delighted to report that this recipe says it will make 32 1-inch meatballs, and that is exactly the number I got. Bonus points!

Conclusion: LOVED it.

1 comment:

  1. More eggplant please! Preferably in meatball form.

    ReplyDelete