September 10, 2010

Inventing with Melanzane

Melanzane sounds more appealing than eggplant.  Except for the multi-talented tomato, really a fruit, this may be the most versatile vegetable.  It likes to be grilled, roasted, stuffed (see my recipe called Imam Fainted in Every Day in Tuscany), included in ratatouille, and made into spreads.

We were in North Carolina for most of August and just before leaving, we had a last-of-the-summer family dinner.  Italians love the involtini concept—something filled and rolled.  I experimented with this idea, since I had a nice firm and gigantic eggplant.  I simply sliced it lengthwise, brushed oil on both sides, sprinkled with oregano, salt and pepper and baked the slices (400 degrees) on parchment for fifteen minutes.


They are then supple.  While they were in the oven, I made a simple tomato sauce by whirring briefly in the food processor one big can of tomatoes, almost drained of liquid.  I sautéed a finely chopped onion with a clove of garlic and mixed in the tomatoes and cooked it briefly to blend flavors.

On each eggplant piece, I placed a slice of prosciutto and a slice of mozzarella, using for this not the delectable soft mozzarella but the brick-shaped one because it has less water content.  Then I just rolled, from the small end forward, and secured the neat little bundle with a toothpick.

Then I slathered the bottom of a baking dish with some tomato sauce, and arranged the involtini on top.  A few spoonfuls over each bundle, a scattering of parmigiano, and finito, back in the oven (350 degrees this time) for a good warming, about fifteen minutes.


With the involtini di melanzane, we served roast chicken stuffed with creamy polenta, jazzed up a bit with celery, onion and croutons and well-seasoned with sage and thyme, salt and pepper. I also stirred an egg into the polenta to give it a little heft.  Here they are slathered with olive oil, tied, seasoned and about to enter the 350 oven for twenty minutes a pound–or until they smell done.


Since the last good peaches were ripe on the windowsill, I made a peach and berry tart with a crostata crust (recipe also in Every Day in Tuscany).  I used five peaches and a cup of berries tossed with  1/3 cup of sugar and the juice of one lemon.  The crust is nice because you can press it into the pan with your fingers—it’s more like a cookie than a piecrust.  I prebake this crust for ten minutes just to have it firm before it’s filled.  Because to a Georgia girl peaches just call for cream, I mixed in the food processor a cup of cream, and an egg and 1/3 cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons of flour then poured it over the fruit.


It baked at 350 degrees for quite a while, maybe 30 minutes. I took it out just before the center firmed and that was perfect.


To celebrate the end of a great summer, Ed opened a 2003 Oreno, a gift from Antonio Moretti’s Tenuta Sette Ponti a few years ago and now just ready for it’s North Carolina close-up!  Salve!  Here’s to fall!