Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Dinner with the Queen

On Friday night, Alex, Cass and I had been scheduled to attend a class at Rosetta Costantino’s “Cooking with Rosetta” cooking school in Emeryville. The class was entitled "The Queen of Vegetables: Eggplant from Appetizer to Dessert” (a reference to the eggplant’s important role in Calabrian cuisine where it is referred to as "la regina delle vedure") and was to have featured the following dishes:

~ Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant meatballs)

~ Pasta al Forno Con Melanzane (Baked pasta layered with eggplant, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella)

~ Melanzane Ripiene (Eggplant stuffed with ground pork, bread crumbs, pecorino cheese and baked with a simple tomato sauce)

~ Melanzane Arrostiti (Grilled marinated eggplant with olive oil, garlic and fresh mint)

~ Melanzane al Cioccolato (Eggplants layered and filled with ricotta and chocolate)

Unfortunately, there were an insufficient number of signups for the class and Rosetta reluctantly had to cancel it.

When we told Rosetta how disappointed we were, she kindly referred us to her wonderful Calabria From Scratch blog and the posts she had made there following the same class last year. Those posts provided both an overview of the class as well as recipes and photos some of the dishes prepared during the class. After taking a look at them, we decided that we would take advantage of our open Friday night to try to make the following two dishes at our place based on the recipes on Rosetta's blog:

~ Involtini di Melanzane Ripieni di Pasta (Eggplant rolls filled with pasta, mozzarella and tomato sauce); and

~ Melanzane Ripiene (Eggplant stuffed with ground pork, bread crumbs, pecorino cheese and baked with a simple tomato sauce)

So on Friday, Nancy both did some shopping and prepared a tomato sauce for us, and Alex, Cassie and I made the dishes.

Involtini di Melanzane Ripieni di Pasta

Cassie (with some help from Alex) took charge of this dish. She had the interesting idea of substituting long, thin strips of zucchini for the spaghetti called for in Rosetta’s recipe and that worked out very well. After cutting the strips, she sautéed them for a couple of minutes before incorporating them into the rolls. There was a enough of a difference in both flavor and texture between the zucchini and eggplant and the substitution worked out very well. Here are pictures of the dish before and after cooking (interestingly the ricotta salata cheese Cassie used for the topping did not melt during the cooking).

Melanzane Ripiene

I got to prepare the stuffed eggplant dish. I followed Rosetta’s recipe closely, although I used our Cuisinart to chop the eggplant pulp (incidentally, a melon baller makes removal of the pulp a lot easier!). The filling was very tasty, although it was quite smooth and I would have preferred a bit more texture. Next time I may add a bit of chopped pork (or even small cubes of pancetta) to the ground pork. Or I have seen other stuffed eggplant recipes call for adding chopped onions which would also have provided a bit of texture. Here are pictures of the dish before and after baking.

Both dishes turned out well and we enjoyed them with one of my favorite southern Italian red wines - a Taurasi from Terredora DiPaolo in Campania.

The two dishes went well together, although if you were planning a menu you would presumably serve one or the other. The dishes were fairly easy to prepare and both could be prepared in advance of cooking.


Simona said...

I love melanzane, so I like the idea of a whole meal based on them. I am currently much interested in a variety called listada de gandia, which is just beautiful and also rather sweet in flavor. Have you seen it at the market in your area?

gastronomichael said...

Simona - thanks for your comment. I have not seen the Listada de Gandia varietal but will keep an eye out for it in the future. For the stuffed eggplant dish we used a Japanese eggplant since we were unable to find any of the Italian varietals locally.