Reuniting. That’s a warm reality now, an affirmation of restraint, discipline and unbridled optimism. My grandson came over after a year of separation. He aspires to own a restaurant. He has a degree in culinary arts plus a university education and has worked in prestigious restaurants, learning from the ground up. During the trying times for restaurants, he landed a position in the film industry and has survived economically. But, the overriding dream-his restaurant-is still in place. Smart money says he’ll be up and running someday soon.
I’ve learned from him. Unfamiliar vegetables and fruits that explode with flavor. Adventurous spices from far and near. The rewards of freshness and sustainability. Smoking: carrots, ricotta, eggplant and more.
Who can measure the emotional rewards of gathering at the dinner table and sharing creations from the oven and grill that in large part, originated in the garden.
A laboratory of goodness meant to be enjoyed.
Big Hugh’s Springtime Tomato Aspic
1(1/16 ounce) package lemon Jell-O gelatin
2cups tomato juice, heated till hot
(1/4 ounce) package unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup scallion, chopped
1?2cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup lump crabmeat
1 cup baby shrimp
1 cup Duke’s mayonaise
Dissolve lemon jello in hot tomato juice.
Dissolve 1/3 package unflavored gelatin in 1 tablespoon cold water.
Mix gelatin, vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish and Worcestershire with the tomato juice mixture and let stand until it begins to thicken. (Just let it cool down.).
Add celery, scallions, green bell pepper, crab and shrimp.
Pour into 9” x 13” glass dish.
Serve with mayonnaise topping.
Grilled Eggplant Parmesan
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 28oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1 large sprig basil, plus 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil
Freshly ground pepper
6 slices white bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large globe eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8oz low-moisture mozzarella, grated
3oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
Place oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat; cook until oil begins to bubble around garlic. Increase heat to medium-high, add in tomato paste and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add in tomatoes and blend to desired consistency with an immersion blender. Add in onion and basil sprig and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and discard onion quarters and basil sprig. Add in chopped basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Heat oven to 250°F. Place bread in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until bread is finely chopped. With motor running, drizzle in melted butter through the feed tube. Transfer breadcrumbs to a baking sheet and shake to spread breadcrumbs into an even layer. Place baking sheet in oven and cook until bread is dried and crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Grilling: When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Brush eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant slices until browned on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a large tray or cutting board.
Set oven to broil. Spread an even layer of sauce along the bottom of a large baking dish. Place a single layer of eggplant slices in dish and top each slice with a heaping tablespoon of sauce. Divided roughly half of the mozzarella between each eggplant slice. Top each slice with another piece of eggplant followed by additional sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, and breadcrumbs. Place baking dish under broiler and cook until cheese has melted and browned. Remove from oven and let rest for up to five minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve immediately.
St. Patrick’s Day Grasshopper Pie
30 Oreo cookies*
6 Tablespoons butter , melted
30 large marshmallows (about 1/2 a bag)*
2/3 cup half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Extra cookie crumbs, for garnish
2 Tablespoons Creme de Menthe Liqueur (more to taste)
2 Tablespoons Creme de Cacao Liqueur
Add the whole Oreo cookies to a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a bowl and stir in melted butter.
Press mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9in pie dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Grasshopper Pie Filling:
Mix marshmallows and half and half in saucepan over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until marshmallows are melted. Remove it from the heat and put it in the refrigerator to cool for about 20 minutes. Be sure to scrape the marshmallows from the side of the pan and stir them after about 10 minutes in the refrigerator to prevent the marshmallows from hardening.
Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the creme de Menth and creme de cacao,
In a separate large bowl, use a mixer to beat the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Fold cream into mixture and poor into cooled pie crust.
Freeze the pie for at least 2 hours or refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
Serve with Irish Coffee
Sir Verde’s Wine Suggestion: Let’s celebrate the Irish. Dublin is a rich mix of cultures, one of the world’s great cities where the most advanced cuisines are well-represented. Upscale Italian restaurants and a very enlightened customer base assure a sophisticated palate that welcomes fine Italian wines. An exciting wine to pair with Eggplant Parmesan is Barbera, a grape coming out of the Piemonte region in Northwestern Italy. Barbera wines are very red-fruit forward with low tannin and high acid, making a great accompaniment to this dish. You can’t go wrong with Roberto Voerzio Riserva Pozzo dell’Annunziata Barbera d’Alba.
Be happy. Bonne dégustation. Love one another.