The Handstand 1987, pastel on paper, 30 x 41 inches
Artist Fred Stonehouse has been with us for the last ten days, making three wonderful prints. He enjoys food and cooking so with Fred as an appreciative guest, I have felt free to cook whatever inspires me.
The summer heat means summer veggies ─ cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplant ─ are available at Zweck’s farmstand. I cannot resist the glossy black Asian eggplant or the fat, round Italian variety. We have had grilled eggplant, soba noodles with eggplant and mango, and eggplant risotto.
For Grilled Eggplant, I rub the halved vegetable with lemon juice, then marinate all day in this:
Combine 1/4 cup shoyu, 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup sherry, a couple of cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped, some grated ginger.
At dinner time, grill over a hot fire until tender, turning once. Serve with any grilled meat or fish or simply with a bowl of rice and a salad.
Soba Salad is a little more complicated. This recipe is based on one in Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. Sauté a large, cubed globe or Asian eggplant in a three tablespoons of safflower oil until browned and tender. Add oil if necessary. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
Cook 7-8 ounces of soba noodles in boiling water until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Watch the pot as it tends to boil over. Blow on the rising water or add a bit of cool water to prevent an overflow. Drain, rinse in cool water and set aside to dry.
Chop a peeled mango into 1-inch pieces, slice half a small red or sweet onion into thin rings, and prepare the dressing.
For the dressing, combine 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, the zest of a lime and its juice, and two cloves of garlic, grated.
Toss the noodles with the mango, onion, eggplant and dressing. Add a big handful of chopped basil and one of chopped cilantro.
This Eggplant Risotto is also based on an Ottolenghi recipe.
Burn a large globe eggplant until the skin chars and the flesh is tender. I do this right on my gas burner. You could use the broiler or a gas grill but the stove top is the easiest. It gives the eggplant just the right smoky flavor. Peel away the burnt skin and chop the flesh into 1-inch pieces.
In 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sauté a medium onion, chopped small, then add a garlic clove, smashed and chopped. Add a cup of Arborio rice and cook for several minutes, stirring. Add a 1/2 cup white wine and cook until it is almost evaporated. Start adding hot vegetable or a light chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often, until the rice is almost tender.
Add the eggplant, the grated zest of a lemon, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup grated parmesan. Stir in a handful of slivered basil leaves. Serve with additional parmesan on the table. Buon appetito and happy summer!