Friday, April 30, 2010

Eggplant Stacks and a mighty fine give-away

When you hear a story - it becomes your story. The way it affected you as it was told. What you gained. What you missed. What you translate when you tell it to others. A recipe is like a story - often told as it goes from ingredients to dish to table. As it is shared, every individual takes away something different from the experience. Raw ingredients through the magic of fire are transformed.

The eggplant stacks reveal a tale. Of tomatoes and herbs. Of firm eggplant. Of the earth. And the imagination. Baked, fried, broiled, grilled and stuffed - there are many eggplant tales to tell.
A vegetable once so bitter that it was thought to cause insanity and leprosy is now the mainstay of an Italian ktichen. Oh the stories that are there. The English-speaking world continued to shy away from it and used it as an ornamental plant - dangerous but enticing.

The new strains are not as bitter as in the days of yore, but I slice them and salt them anway. It dries them and removes the soft bitter flavor.

After 30 minutes of salt and enclosed by a paper towel, the eight slices of eggplant are baked for 30 minutes at 350 degree F.

10 cherry tomatoes are chopped and mixed with a handful of basil. A spoonful goes on top of four of the larger eggplant slices. A thin slice of fresh mozzarella goes on top of that. A smaller eggplant slice, another dollop of tomatoes and another mozzarella slice.

A few shavings of Parmesan and chopped Italian parsley and it is ready to revisit the oven. For about ten minutes at 350 degrees F until all is melted and warmed.

I bring it to the table and the story continues. There is silence as one bites into them. Quiet as they are devoured. Mentions of other toppings (olives, nuts, thyme). More silence. And the question, "Is there any more?"
I am remembering the eggplant growing in my front yard in Queens, New York. My daughter is coming to terms with liking eggplant for the first time. (Or is it the cheese?) Transformation. And no endings. For the stories and recipes continue and evolve. I snatch the happy endings when I can.
An e-mail came to me from Bertolli Foods. This is a story - an interesting relationship from a still-evolving Italian cook who cooks from scratch and an Italian foodmaker of prepared foods.
Would I like to go to a Celebrity Chef Event featuring Rocco DiSpirito? Would I enjoy a culinary tour of L.A.? Would I like to host a give-away and bring a reader with me?
How does that fall into my lap? Is it a magical occurrence? It is a new experience - a welcome one - and so I tread into new waters wondering about what new flavors and colors will hypnotize and lure. Dance on my plate and proclaim.
And so I shall begin this process. Beginning Sunday, I shall be airing Webisodes of Into the Heart of Italy and begin the giveaway. I hope you join me. I look forward to meeting one of you in L.A.


Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

these look fabulous! I guess we are thinking alike making eggplant tonight, my favorite ....your recipe is making me wish I tried this instead its too late I didnt see it in time, but for sure this one is on my list to make..this looks like an insalta eggplant caprese man what a great idea love it...with melted cheese what a genius.....awesome job Claudia

Anonymous said...

Eggplant stacks look so good, I love all that melted cheese!

Wow, Claudia, your upcoming experience with Bertolli sounds so exciting! I can't wait to hear all about this!

Reeni said...

That is great news Claudia! I'm thrilled for you. Your eggplant stacks are beauties! Love that you used fresh tomatoes.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Your eggplant atacks look delicious. The mozzarella looks so fresh!

Wow, Claudia ...Congratulations! That is a fabulous offer from Bertolli! I like Rocco Di Spirito's new cookbook which focuses on healthier, low calorie ways of preparing food.

I'm looking forward to your webisodes!

Donna-FFW said...

Oh Claudia.. missed reading your blog while I was on hiatus. What a delicious dish this is. I would love it!

Lyndas recipe box said...

The eggplant stacks with the melted, gooey cheese are making me drool Claudia!
Congrats on the fabulous give-a-way...can't wait to read more aboutit..Have fun!

Anne said...

The eggplant with the melted cheese looks soo yummy. My mouth is watering. Congratulations on the give a way. Enjoy!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I'm ready for a couple of those eggplant stacks. And what fun you'll have on that Bertolli trip! Congratulations you lucky lady.

Angie's Recipes said...

What a fabulous eggplant dish!
Will these goodies include in your mighty give-away?;-)

Jen_from_NJ said...

Congratulations Claudia! I am so excited for you!

I adore eggplant and your eggplant stacks look so delicious. Tomatoes, basil, and melted cheese -perfect!

OysterCulture said...

Oh my, I do love eggplant, even if I will be driven to insanity. What a delicious looking recipe. Love the tomatoes and the cheese just goes without saying.

nazarina said...

This is such a heart-warming dish!You put so much love into it and the pictures are so yummy looking! Glad to make your acquaintance! Congrats!

My Little Space said...

COOL, what a fantastic giveaway! I wish I'm in US right now! Btw, the eggplant recipe looks great, really scrumptious!
Have a nice day!
Regards, Kristy