Monday, March 15, 2010

Melanzane al funghetto

This is an eggplant dish from the town of Bari, in Southern Italy. I was introduced to it when a friend of mine from Bari brought it to a dinner party, and in fact it's a great dish to bring to a party because it's extremely easy to make, and it is best if you let it sit for several hours before serving it, so you can prepare it in advance - even a day before you plan to eat it. And of course, it tastes wonderful!

1 large eggplant
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes
Large green olives
A clove of garlic
Fresh basil
Fresh parsley
Olive oil

Wash the eggplant, and peel the skin in strips so that some is left on. Cut the eggplant into disks a few centimeters thick, and then cut those discs into squares. Crush the garlic and then chop it up. In a large pan, heat some olive oil and then add the garlic. After 15-20 seconds, add the eggplant, stirring quite often. If necessary, add a bit more olive oil, but don't add too much or else the eggplant will get too soft.

Wash the tomatoes and cut them into cubes, then add them to the eggplants (which should have cooked on their own for about 5 minutes). Then wash the olives and capers and add them in as well. Wash the basil and parsley and chop them finely. Add the basil, parsley, and oregano, and sprinkle everything with salt and pepper. After a few minutes, turn the heat down to low, and let everything cook another 15 or 20 minutes, stirring every so often, until the eggplants are soft but not mushy.

Let cool, and serve at room temperature, or else refrigerate and serve after several hours.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Banana nut bread

I know I haven't updated this blog in forever - not because I haven't been cooking and eating lots of delicious things, but just because I've been so busy with other stuff like studying, dancing, and traveling! However, the second I bit into this bread/cake I knew I had to post the recipe, if only so that I can remember it to make it again!

And again and again and again...

For some reason, I've suddenly started making all sorts of American dishes that I've never made even once in my life before. I suppose it all started a couple weeks ago when an Italian friend asked me for a recipe for chocolate chip cookies (which I have made, plenty of times) and followed up with a request for a recipe for brownies (which I never have made, not even once). I immediately emailed my mom for both recipes and, as I was translating them into Italian, I thought "hmmm, these sound really good..." and a few days later, there I was, scouting out my local grocery store for baking chocolate, butter, and vanilla extract!

The banana bread was even less planned than the brownies, but several days ago my housemate bequeathed a couple of medium-ripe bananas on me, and as I already had several bananas of my own, the obvious solution was to wait a few days for these new bananas to get super-ripe and then turn them into delicious banana bread! Having never baked banana bread before, I scouted around for some recipes, and finally settled on a recipe by David Lebovitz, which I then tweaked quite a bit to fit my tastes/available culinary options! The original recipe can be found here. My own version is given below. It's a bit breadier than most (uses whole wheat flour, yogurt, etc.), but it still tastes quite sweet, and the nutmeg really adds a kick.

2 very ripe bananas
125 g. cake flour
125 g. whole wheat flour
125 g. sugar
A largish spoonful of vanilla sugar
A small spoonful of salt
A small spoonful of baking soda
A spoonful of baking powder
175 g. plain, whole milk yogurt
50 g. unsalted butter + extra for buttering the pan
2 eggs
75 g. walnuts
Half a nutmeg
A spoonful of cinnamon

Leave the eggs out until they are at room temperature. Then preheat the oven to 180º C / 355 º F, and butter a loaf pan.

Melt the 50 g. butter and let cool a bit. Grind the nutmeg, and sift together the two flours, the salt, the baking powder, the baking soda, the nutmeg, and the cinnamon. Stir the sugar and the vanilla sugar into this mixture.

Chop the walnuts into small bits and mash up the bananas until they are very soft. Beat the eggs and combine them with the melted butter, the yogurt and the bananas. Stir the liquid ingredients together thoroughly, and then make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined but no longer (until you can no longer see any bits of flour or anything). Stir in the walnuts, and spread the whole mixture into the loaf pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is browned and a fork stuck into the middle comes out clean. Let cool and then eat!