roasted japanese eggplant with pomegranate, pistachio, garlicky cream sauce

japanese eggplant pomegranate pistachio
roasted japanese eggplant with fresh thyme
garlicky yogurt cream sauce
pomegranate & pistachio

I wasn’t shopping for another cookbook. I was actually at Anthropologie shopping for some kind of platform or stools on which to display some my overflowing unruly cookbook collection. But there on the shelf along with some darling Morrocan tea glasses and heavenly spiced candles was PLENTY, Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. On the cover, a bejeweled eggplant dish…I was smitten.

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baby tagine = indian eggplant, lemon confit, garlic, thai basil

baby tagine, indian eggplant, thai basil

baby tagine
indian eggplant, lemon confit, garlic, thai basil, olive oil, red pepper flakes
with toasted ciabatta

indian eggplant, baby tagine

What to cook first in my new baby tagine?  I had been dreaming of a baby tagine ever since our most memorable meal on the 40th Floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange at Everest. Chef Joho serves a vegetable mélange side dish in the most charming vessel.

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La Cucina Calabrese – A Rustic Southern Italian Dinner Party

calabria, calabria dinner, my calabria
Discovering Calabria – A Rustic Southern Italian Dinner Party

Inspired this past weekend, by the recent gift of a new Calabrese cookbook, my friends and I prepared an authentic Southern Italian feast. The setting was beautifully simple, complete with herbs, flowers and citrus fruits from our gardens. For the menu, we adapted seven recipes from My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher, with outstanding results.

We enjoyed exploring this lesser known regional cuisine, learning about the remote and somewhat mysterious Calabria as we constructed our menu. Dusty and hot mountainous regions, steep slopes, and narrow coastlines all contribute to the uniqueness that is La Cucina Calabrese.

We served esoteric Italian wines with the meal, wines that paired well with the simple yet robust Calabrese cuisine. Unfortunately we had difficulty locating wine specifically from Calabria, but we certainly were not disappointed with the fabulous bottles that graced our table. And we enjoyed Gino’s locally famous homemade limoncello to cap off the affair.

Unlike most of our dinner parties, the dishes were served family style. There was plenty of conviviality and great food & drink, as we experienced Southern Italy via Southern California.

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white asparagus wrapped in japanese eggplant

white asparagus, japanese eggplant

white asparagus wrapped in japanese eggplant
with a chiffonade of shiso
served over mizuna
spicy lemon miso dressing
blistered shishito peppers and grape tomatoes

white asparagus

Natasha, the 5 Star Foodie & Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks! host the 5 Star Makeover Cooking Group, a fabulous monthly event for “sharing ideas and creating gourmet makeovers of selected classic dishes or flavor combinations.”

The 5 Star Makeover theme for April is a special seasonal ingredient, White Asparagus.

“For a brief two weeks at the end of April, the prized white asparagus is in season. In Germany, this mini-season is celebrated with a mania not to be missed, and every restaurant in on the tradition offers a special menu, called a Spargel Karte. These menus include anywhere from three to thirteen courses, all featuring the tender, sweet, white asparagus. Typical classic dishes include a white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce or a white asparagus soup. We invite you to think outside the box to create a unique gourmet dish featuring white asparagus.”

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“Mediterranean on the Pacific”

“Mediterranean on the Pacific”
Sunken City Supper Club
Summer Soirée

The Sunken City Supper Club is a fresh, local and secret place to seasonally mingle with friends and neighbors – to enjoy the camaraderie, great food, wine, and the awesome intimate jazz standards performed by local musicians Barry Anthony and Bill Ryan. We hold one event per season, and the menu always reflects seasonal ingredients. Our Sunken City Supper Club events feature a five course fixed menu plus our signature amuse bouche and unique sherry courses.

Supper Clubbers Sally & Al, with a great view!

The 24 guests are emailed the menu in advance so they can bring wines to complement the dinner. The Sunken City Supper Club is a “moveable feast” – the location varies. The Summer Soirée was held at the beautiful home of our friends Gina & Van overlooking the ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The summer menu features many seasonal summertime ingredients typically served along the Mediterranean Sea. The table setting, decor, and colors enhanced the Mediterranean theme.

We are especially proud of this recent dinner, as we have now completed a full year’s cycle of seasonal events:

Over the year we have learned how to run a “restaurant” out of a home kitchen, held many experimental test kitchen dinners, honed our timing skills, gained a new appreciation for that second refrigerator, made new foodie friends, and had a blast! We look forward to another year of Sunken City Supper Club seasonal events!

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All About Eggplant

We made grilled eggplant at least once a week during the month of August. My blogger friend, Simona of Briciole, is hosting Fresh Produce of the Month event, and this month it is, you guessed it, eggplant. So, without further ado, here are all my submissions to the event:

How to: Rub the sliced eggplant with kosher salt and let them sweat on paper towels for an hour, turning once, to remove much of the moisture. Then rinse off the salt, pat dry, and brush with olive oil. Grill over medium high heat. I like to slice the eggplant in generous portions so it doesn’t shrivel up on the grill.

Grilled Skirt Steak
over Grilled Eggplant and Salsa Verde Black Beans
Cilantro Garnish

A year ago, I posted this black bean with salsa verde recipe. It comes from Nancy Silverton’s A Twist of the Wrist cookbook featuring very quick recipes that come from a can or a jar. The recipe is posted here. Last time I topped the beans with avocado, this time with grilled eggplant. Both excellent with skirt steak.

Salad of Grilled Eggplant and
Slow Roasted Tomato with Bûcheron
Dijon Vinaigrette

This is a simple salad but don’t let that fool you, it is loaded with flavors of the smokey eggplant, the concentrated roasted tomato, the tangy goat cheese, grilled bread, mixed lettuces, Jacques Pepin’s vinaigrette.
My nephew, Jett, helped make slow roasted tomatoes. I cut the roma tomatoes while he poured olive oil into the baking dish. Then he placed the tomatoes in the dish, sprinkled with kosher salt, a little sugar, and dried oregano, then drizzled more olive oil over the top. We slow roasted them at 250 for 2+ hours.

To finish, we topped the tomatoes with chopped parsely and minced garlic. I read about this recipe in Bon Appetit magazine, it was adapted from Cafe Lago in Seattle.

Festonati Pasta, Grilled Eggplant, Homegrown Tomato
Topped with Grated Smoked Scamorza, Fresh Basil
Olive Oil, Garlic, Red Chile Flakes

Chunky grilled eggplant was perfectly paired with this uncommon garland-shaped pasta called festonati.  The festonati was tossed in olive oil heated with shaved garlic and red pepper flakes, then eggplant, chopped tomatoes and basil added. Finished with grated scamorza. I especially like this rustic pasta dish, all the components are bold and rough chopped.
Grilled Eggplant, Melting Scamorza
Homegrown Tomatoes, Fresh Basil
with Garlic Anchovy Oil

If you like smokey flavors, do try smoked scamorza paired with grilled eggplant. This aged mozzarella-style cheese is made from water buffalo milk.
To make the flavorful oil: Heat olive oil, add minced garlic, then anchovies. Stir until the anchovies dissolve. Remove from heat, add red pepper flakes, chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Drizzle over tomatoes and serve with crusty bread to dip in the flavored oil too. This makes a great side dish to grilled chicken.
Still craving eggplant? You might want to check out  Spaghetti with Eggplant Cream Sauce too. It comes in handy when fresh eggplant is not available.
My absolute favorite way to prepare eggplant is GRILLED! How about you?