Every time I sit down at the computer in the last month, it seems I can't figure out what on earth I want to tell you. It probably doesn't help that I've been home approximately 6 of the last 30 days, traveling for work and pleasure, packing and unpacking suitcases. But that's not the excuse, really. Words come into my head on the airplane or often while I'm driving, but as soon as I go to put them on paper (or laptop, more likely), they vanish as quickly as they came. I carry a Rhodia notebook everywhere, but it seems to collect random phone numbers and half-thought-out sentences more than anything else.
I am sad to hear of Gourmet closing, and frustrated with the lack of strategy in the Afghan war, and I've even been doing a decent amount of cooking in the few days when I have a chance. We had a dinner party with whole grilled rockfish and raspberry souffles with peach creme anglaise (ooh, how wonderful they were), and I made chocolate chip cookies to take on the road with me. But when it comes to writing and sharing with you all, well I'll admit I'm coming up empty.
I sold my mom's house a few weeks ago, and have a sudden feeling of homelessness. The house is mainly cleaned out, but I left mom's recipe cabinet for last. Everyone says how hard it must be to clean out mom's house, but frankly a lot of the stuff in there is just stuff to me. I'm not as attached to objects as some people. But the recipe cabinet is a different story.
My mother clipped every Sunday NYTimes recipe since about 1975. I'm not kidding. I went through every single one- great stuff from the times of Craig Cliaborne and Patricia Wells. And that's all on top of the other clippings, the Times and the Post, and Gourmet, my grandmother's recipe box, and at least 30 recipes for pulled pork barbeque. My mother was a great cook, but after I left home she didn't cook much,with just herself to feed. But she kept clipping, and she'd always say that when she retired she'd make every single one of them. Going through them, it made me terribly sad that she never got the chance.
We went to Baltimore last weekend, to harvest grapes at a vineyard and stroll around the Walters and eat excellent Afghan food at the Helmand. We stayed with a friend Margaret, who is an excellent cook. When my mom was staying with her, she would often make this fried eggplant dish- they loved it so much the two of them would eat a whole eggplant in one sitting. I totally understand, this stuff is addictive. I made the recipe, simple pan-fried panko-crusted eggplant, for my last dinner party, and 3 whole eggplants were devoured in minutes. You could add some plain yogurt as an accoutrement, but this dish can really stand alone.
I don't know if this writer's block will continue, or what all do with that big stack of mom's recipe, or how much longer I'll feel that accute stab of orphanhood on a daily basis. But I know I'll keep cooking, because it's as intrinsic to me as sleeping and breathing, and I hope I'll figure out how to share that here as well.
peanut or canola oil, for frying
2 eggplant, about 3" to 4" inches in diameter at the widest point
2 eggs, beaten with 1 tbl of water
panko for crusting
1. Slice the eggplant very thinly and spread on paper towels. Sprinkle throroughly with salt on both sides, then leave eggplant to drain for 20-30 minutes. Press the eggplant well on both sides to absorb moisture and brush off any excess salt.
2. Meanwhile, place the beaten egg mixture in one wide bowl and the pank in another shallow bowl or plate.
3. In your widest skillet or pan, heat about 1" of oil, enough for shallow frying, until shimmering.
4. Dip the eggplant slices in egg, then in panko to coat. Add the eggplant slices to the pan a few at a time (do not overcrowd) and fry until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain. It will take several batches and you will probably have to replenish the oil in the pan.
5. Serve immediately.