At the class, Francine and Andrew started by demonstrating Whipped Eggplant and Anchovy Crostini which was a smooth and light puree of grilled eggplant drizzled with olive oil and topped with an anchovy fillet. The next course was a fresh mix of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn in a red rice salad, and I learned that a type of red rice grows in Italy. The Sauteed Squid with Salsa Verde dish is usually made with lovage, parsley, and mint. Since lovage wasn’t available here, celery leaves were used as a substitute. The pasta dish of the evening was light and herby with chopped parsley, basil, and mint stirred into the melted ricotta than sauced the strands of spaghetti. Dessert was a rich and fragrant Vanilla Panna Cotta. Photos from the class are posted on my Facebook page.
With a nice, plump eggplant that had just arrived from my CSA, I decided my first stop in the book would be at the Fried Eggplant with Parmigiano-Reggiano, Tomato, and Basil dish. Yes, it’s fried, but with the oil at the proper temperature and the breading properly applied, the eggplant slices become crispy and golden without absorbing the oil. And, unlike a mozzarella-filled, traditional eggplant parmesan dish, this is light by comparison. The eggplant slices were sprinkled with salt and left to drain in a colander for an hour before being patted dry, dusted with flour, dipped in egg, and coated with breadcrumbs. They were fried in 375 degree F oil for a few minutes and then drained on paper towels and seasoned with salt. I took a small liberty with the sauce. Rather than peeling and dicing large tomatoes, I used pretty, little cherry tomatoes which were cooked in olive oil with garlic. I pulsed the cooked tomatoes in the food processor to make a slightly chunky sauce. The sauce was spooned onto plates and sprinkled with torn basil and shaved parmigiano. It was topped with slices of fried eggplant and more basil and parmigiano. It was a dish of simplicity at its very best like everything else in the book promises to be.
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