Monday, August 8, 2011

Eggplant "Involtini" and Pimento Cheese

This recipe was taken from this really great cookbook Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson.  Tartine is a wonderful bakery and cafe in San Francisco that we visited while in that very city.  The cookbook is worth having, if just for the recipes towards the back.  Most of the book involves very detailed recipes for wonderful professional tasting bread.  The back end of the book shows creative and tasty ways to use up leftover professional tasting bread.  This one is called "Involtini" which is an Italian word for "little bundles" of something yummy.  The Italians are very good at using up old bread, as it is very important to not waste a crumb of anything that was made with love.  Ask Carlo Petrini about his grandmother's dish of stale bread and tomato sauce....

The recipe called for a few things I didn't have, or weren't in season so here's what I did:

for the tomato sauce:                                                                 

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped                                                                           
  • about 10 roma tomatoes, peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • a little olive oil 
  • salt to taste
Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until transparent.  Add the garlic, saute for a minute, and then throw in the tomatoes.  Cook, stirring every now and then about 20 minutes, crushing the tomatoes as they soften.  You want it to be a little chunky and also a little runny- a lot of liquid will evaporate when you bake it.

for the stuffing:
  • Bread crumbs from 4 slices of ciabatta (make croutons by tearing the bread into pieces, tossing them in oil and a little salt, and then toasting them at 400 til browned.  Then crush them under a rolling pin to make bread crumbs)
  • 1 1/2 cup grated Sequatchie Cove's Cumberland cheese
  • 1/2 cup homemade "kefir cheese"  (Tartine calls for 2 cups ricotta and the grated zest and juice of one lemon.  I had neither so those were my substitutes)
  • 1 t thyme leaves
  • 1/4 t salt
Combine all and set aside while you prepare the fun part:

Slice 2-3 medium sized globe eggplants lengthwise into roughly 1/4 inch slices.  I actually used some asian-style eggplant, which worked, I just had very teeny little bundles.  If you own a mandoline use that.  If you don't, like me, practice your handy dandy knife skills.  I am lucky enough to own a small Shun, which has a very thin blade and is perfect for delicate slices.  Soak the eggplant in salt water for about an hour to draw out the bitterness.  Then blot the slices dry with a clean kitchen towel and heat some olive oil in a large skillet or wok til hot- about 360 degrees F if you have a thermometer (which I don't). Fry each slice for a few minutes, a few at a time, until they take on a little color and then set aside to drain on paper towels or bags while you fry the rest.  

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Pour tomato sauce in the bottom of a medium-sized baking dish.  Put a small spoonful of filling on the end of each slice and roll it up.  Place seam down in the dish.  Repeat with all the rest.  Sprinkle a small amount of cheese on top and bake about 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is dark and bubbling and the rolls are nice and brown.  Tartine spoons cream over the rolls before baking and then sprinkles with Asiago after.  I didn't have those either so I just reserved some Cumberland and used that before baking.  Serve warm.


Kinda Sorta Frank Stitt's Pimento Cheese

My grandmother sends me clipping from the Wall Street Journal's food pages when she sees something I might find interesting.  I drool and muse over them and then stick them in a drawer after recreating and embellishing a few of the recipes.  Padgett had just traded me a wheel of Cumberland when a whole page about pimento cheese arrived in the mail.   I found it to be fate when I saw Frank Stitt's own recipe on the menu.  Frank is a chef and restaurateur from the great city of Birmingham, Alabama.  He and his wife Pardis are doing some wonderful stuff down there, as well as making fabulous pimento cheese...  Frank uses sharp cheddar and adds white pepper, a teeny touch of sugar, some Worcestershire sauce, cream cheese, and some hot sauce.  I did none of those but the rest I followed...

  • 1 pound sharp cheese, shredded and let come fully to room temp.  (Cumberland is wonderful but you could cut it with some less pricey cheddar if you wish. 
  • 3 sweet red peppers, roasted, skinned and deseeded, chopped small
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I bought it only for this purpose, but it's easy to make if'n you wanna)
  • very teeny piece diced fresh cayenne (or more to taste)
  • 1 t paprika powder
Blend everything but the peppers until just about smooth in a food processor.  Fold in peppers and serve at room temp with crackers, cucumber strips, sungold cherry tomatoes, toasted bread,  fresh pepper slices, or whatever you most desire.  Its creamy saltiness does go well with raw vegetables though, so at least try it.  I like to put a dab on a basil leaf, wrap the leaf around a sungold cherry tomato and eat the whole thing just like that.

No comments: