Sunday, July 8, 2007

Eggplant & Empire's

Eggplant, (aka Aubergines or Melanzane) are one of my absolute favorite vegetables. I love them grilled, marinated, pickled, stuffed, parmigiano style, or used as the base of a simple tomato sauce. This eggplant sauce, referred to as Melanzane a fungetiello, was never made in my parents house but I picked up the idea from a girlfriend whose family originated in Calabria where eggplants are more commonly used than my father's region (Abruzzo). It is such a simple and flavorful sauce and a great substitution for meat.

Some people soak their eggplant in water before using. I have never bothered and all of my eggplant recipes work out fine. Here's how I made the sauce. I start with some olive oil in a large pot. I add one chopped shallot (an onion would be fine too), one or two large cloves of crushed garlic, and one medium sized eggplant, cubed. Saute for around 5-10 minutes until everything is very lightly browned and softened. Then I add one large tin of diced tomatoes and 1/2 tin of crushed tomatoes. Add sea salt, black pepper, freshly chopped parsley and basil (I used about 2 TBSP each of the fresh herbs).

Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for approximately 30 minutes. In the meantime, boil your preferred pasta (we like penne rigate), drain and serve with the sauce. I topped it with freshly chopped mint and a generous grating or parmigiano cheese. The mint really adds a freshness to the eggplant in the dish.

I love lemonade in the summertime and finally made the one in Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros. It was really good and I will definitely use this recipe over and over. She suggests using fizzy water which I may do next time. I kept this one basic and used regular water with a bit of added mint leaves.

I've been particularly reminiscent when it comes to food lately. I started this blog with my Mom in mind (she's French Canadian and married my very Italian father). But I also have a wonderful mother in law with very different roots. She was born and raised in Scotland and is also a great cook and baker. If it wasn't for Norma, I might never have experienced the great Empire Biscuit! It is a melt in your mouth shortbread type cookie, sandwiched with raspberry jam and covered with an icing sugar topping. Mmmmm. I think I like them more than Glen, but thought he would appreciate having them around to nibble on. So, in my 'Ina pleasing Jeffery mode', I dug up the recipe from my archives and here it is:

Norma's Empire Biscuits
1 3/4 Cups Self Raising Flour
4 TBSP Cornflour
4 TBSP Icing Sugar
8 oz Butter at room temperature
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix butter and icing sugar until combined (using stand or hand mixer).
Add the cornflour and mix.
Add the flour and mix until incorporated.
Roll out to approximately 1/4" thickness or slightly less if possible. I find this dough a little difficult to work with...I think the less handling you do, the better. You need a well floured surface and rolling pin.
Cut cookies with a round cutter.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until barely golden. They should not brown too much.
Let cool on rack completely. Sandwich with your favorite raspberry jam. Ice the tops and add a glace cherry half to be totally traditional. I didn't have them but did find some silver balls from a previous cupcake project that I used. The icing is just confectioner's sugar with a touch of water. I think I used about 1 cup of confectioner's sugar with 1-2 TBSP of warm water and mixed until think and creamy.

They are a little fussy to make, but definitely worth it. They remind me of holidays, but are just as good with a coffee on a lazy Sunday afternoon.


Kelly-Jane said...

Your pasta looks great, as do your biscuits, we call Empire biscuits sailors hats!

Sandy said...

Hi Kelly-Jane, I've never heard them called Sailor hats before. My Scottish in laws have many words for things that I have never heard before. :)