I truly love to cook! No, I love to create! There are times when I would try to do the Italian thing and spend all day in the kitchen. That was even before I ever went to Italy.
I had dinner parties all the time – in Detroit, in Toledo and at homes other than my own.
To get started, the kitchen had to be clean, of course. I detest disorder. And every meal began with a pot of water. Sometimes, I didn’t know what I would put in it – having no idea what I was about to prepare – but I had to have that pot boiling. On occasion, I just ended up making hot tea…
With the pot on, I added some soft music: jazz from the radio or when in Italy, love songs from my CD collection. Mood music is so apropos. I believe as long as you have excellent presentation and the right mood set, the simplest meal can taste exquisite. A green salad with cucumbers, mushrooms, green onions and mozzarella; fresh baked bread, some noteworthy cheese and white wine; vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper and basilico (basil) on the table; good friends all around…Aaaah, those are the best times.
As I perused the cabinets and fridge, it may have been baked chicken over linguine and a white sauce with that salad. Or, it could have been lasagne, steak and potatoes or a roast (with a switch to red wine, naturally). Whatever. The intent was to make something tasty and enjoy good company. Though, getting to enjoy time with your guests means you sometimes need to whip up a quick dish. I had that opportunity with my so-called Melanzane all’Italia.
It was Italy, January 2009. My fiance at the time was coming over and he invited a visiting friend from Treviso. As is his nature, he decided I was preparing something special. I had two hours to get ready, which included cleaning off the dining table that my roommate and I used as a dumping ground for fruit, chips, popcorn, sunflower seeds, dead flowers, sales papers, school books, hair brushes, whatever. Ok, it was time to spring into action…
I ran around like a mad woman to clear the table. I pulled out a 4 person setting of my prized antique china and set it on the table. Wine glasses and coordinated coffee cups followed. Swinging open the fridge door, I asked that age-old question: What to make? What to make? There was fresh eggplant, maybe from someone’s garden. I don’t remember now. There was left-over chicken from whoknowswhat and the rest – sugo di pomodoro (tomato sauce), olio d’oliva (olive oil), aglio (garlic) and spezie (spices) – were staples in the house.
So I rinsed and sliced the eggplant. Pan-seared it on both sides in a bit of olive oil, sea salt and Italian spices. Chopped up the chicken very brutally. Well, first in strips and then just haphazardly. Using a piece of paper towel, I rubbed a cookie sheet with some of the seasoned oil. I layed the eggplant slices on it; topped the eggplant with chicken strips; added slices of real mozzarella cheese and drizzled it all with pasta sauce (store-bought or homemade – it’s up to you). Whatever chicken bits were left, I just threw on top and sprinkled fresh cracked pepper and more Italian spices. Popped it in the oven and that was that.
Since it was Italy, that of course was the second dish. I’ll have to tell you about the first course next time.
Ciao ciao, Jordis’ mom