Hello everyone! Today I had lunch at my friend Kate’s house while we relaxed in front of English TV. I mentioned to Kate that one of the best things about renting an apartment while in London was to be able to get up, turn on the telly and hear my native language. Ahh…
So, being the sweet girl she is, Kate invited me over to watch my favorite British TV program which she has been recording for me all week. The show is called Come Dine With Me. 5 people take turns cooking a 3 course meal for each other over a week. They then vote on the meal and the winner receives £1,000. I’ve talked about the German version before, same concept.
It was a great afternoon and I even came home with 3 new cookbooks to borrow.
I read cookbooks like novels, always have as my mother would say.
While reading through Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy cookbook, I fell in love with the concept of a recipe to the point that I had to make it regardless of the fact that I possessed only half the ingredients- the other half I improvised and I’m happy to say, the results were outstanding.
Before we get to the main course, let me introduce the antipasti.
Simple Zucchini Antipasti
- 1 small to medium sized zucchini, sliced
- juice from one lemon wedge
- olive oil
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- Boil a pot of salt water and drop in the zucchini pieces. You want to cook the zucchini until it is no longer crispy but still slightly firm. Be careful not to over blanche the zucchini or else they will be mushy.
- Take the cooked zucchini out of the water and let rest on a towel for a few minutes to remove excess water.
- Put into a serving dish and lightly drizzle with fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and serve either warm, room temperature or cold.
This is so light and fresh- a great way to get a few veggies in before the main dish.
Speaking of the main dish….
Pasta alla Norma
- 1 large, firm eggplant
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
- pinch of hot pepper flakes
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- small bunch of fresh basil, stalks finely chopped, leaves reserved
- 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 fresh tomatoes, blanched, deskinned and seeded
- 6 sundried tomatoes
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 servings of dried whole wheat spaghetti
- soft goat’s cheese
- Cut the eggplant into quarters lengthwise. If the centers are really seedy and fluffy, cut them out and throw away. Next, cut the eggplant into finger-sized lengths.
- Heat a little olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Fry the eggplant (probably in 2 batches) adding a little more olive oil if you need to. Toss the eggplant to be sure that each side has a bit of oil coating it and sprinkle with the oregano. Fry until all sides are golden brown.
- While the eggplant is cooking, create a tomato sauce using the prepared tomatoes and dried tomatoes by blending them together in a blender or food processor. (If you have a can of tomatoes, you can exchange them in place of the fresh and dried tomatoes. The original recipe calls for canned tomatoes but I didn’t have any.)
- When the eggplant pieces are all cooked, return both batches to the pan and add the chili flakes. Turn the heat down to medium and add a little more olive oil, the garlic and the basil stalks. Stir so everything is evenly cooked then add the balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce.
- Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to package instructions. Taste the tomato mixture and add salt and pepper as needed. Tear half the basil leaves and toss in to the sauce.
- Once your pasta is cooked, drain (reserving a little pasta water) and add it to the sauce. Toss the pasta and sauce together with a splash of the pasta water. Divide the pasta between 2 plates and garnish with the remaining basil leaves and fresh, soft goat’s cheese. If you wish, you can even top it off with another small drizzle of olive oil.
This recipe may look complicated, but it came together quite quickly. The taste was absolutely outstanding, something I’ll certainly make again and often.
Best of all, I was able to enjoy the whole meal on my balcony over candlelight and a glass of wine with great company.
A true food culture experience.