Happy Endings in the Kitchen Episode 1: Eggplant Parmigiana & Poached Figs in Alcohol

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Now look…

Are you suffering from dating exhaustion? Tired of swiping right to disappointment? Kissed too many amphibians in princely clothing?

Well then there was Needle Prick.

Yes, Needle Prick.  We met in a hospital.  I was the nurse.  He was the patient.  I was holding the needle.  He was writhing in pain. But perhaps not as much pain as he at first appeared to be in, as he managed to memorise my full name from my nursing badge and discovered me on Facebook a few days following the needle’s prick.  Now I don’t make a habit of dating patients but on this occasion my head/heart/lady bits won over my professional judgement.

And so, it was love.  Unexpected, all-consuming, makes no fucking sense, probably have nothing in common with each other but are convinced we do, earth shattering, thrush-making love!  He was of Calabrian background, made a great omelette, told me I was beautiful, stroked my face and spoke sweet nothings, shared his dreams and listened attentively to mine, and devoutly worshipped my body.  Note: He also had an ex-wife who cheated on him for three years of their marriage, two young children, was an ex Jehovah’s Witness, had only just lost about 60 kgs thanks to a lap band surgery accompanied by a subsequent mass of loose skin and a teeny tiny appetite, and had a pecker that felt like it was pronged once inserted.  But it was love!  And red flags are just a bit of extra colour when you are on the joyride of non-sensical adoration.  And he really really loved me!  He urged “stay at mine every night, in fact, why don’t you move in…you can use my car..I’ll cook for you..we’ll holiday somewhere exotic together..”  Five weeks of uninhibited, inspired declarations of love.

Until…he moved to the mines.  Yes, he landed a job driving a compensatingly over-sized truck and I was left with a break up text message, which started with “Now look, I just don’t think this is going to work…”  No face to face, no tender words, no explanation or sentiment of pained disappointment.  I was stunned.  If only I held the needle to his prick in that moment. All of that talk, history exchanged, future plans made, body fluids shared, love drugs administered…all climaxing in a text that began with “Now look…”???

And so I suffered agonisingly in my abandoned state for approximately 48 hours until clarity set in.  I was left feeling empty, and ravenous to be filled up again. But not by weak promises, pronged whangs, or any other kind of bullshit fed to me by a mining, hairy ex-JW with unfettered skin accessories.  I needed to be satiated.  I needed to be cleansed.  I needed to be baptised.  By food.  And so I got to thinking, what better way to take the bad taste of a bad relationship out of my mouth than fill it with something abounding in flavour.  So, herein lies the beginning of the chronicles of my dating disasters and relationship nightmares that find a happy ending in the kitchen and a desirous conclusion in my mouth.

 

A taste of Calabria

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Parmigiana di Melanzane

Ingredients:

2 medium eggplants
Salt
extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup bread crumbs (slightly stale bread is best), seasoned with 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup pecorino
Tomato Sauce, as below
1 pound ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Basic Tomato Sauce:
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 medium carrot, shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Wash and dry the eggplant. Slice the eggplant horizontally about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle the slices with salt and set aside to rest about 30 minutes in a colander. Drain and rinse the eggplant, squeeze out any excess moisture, and towel dry.

Sauce: In a medium sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until reduced to a thick sauce. Season with salt.

Spread fresh breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown. Sprinkle with a little olive oil once ready and toss through.

In a frying pan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil until just smoking.  Cook eggplant in batches until golden brown on each side, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  On a baking sheet lay out the 4 largest pieces of eggplant. Place 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over each piece and then a thin slice of mozzarella on top of each. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and top each with the next smallest piece of eggplant, then sauce then mozzarella. Repeat the layering process until all the ingredients have been used, finishing finally with a layer of parmesan. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top of each little stack is golden brown and bubbly, and the mozzarella is beginning to ooze.  Sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and serve.

Tips: Choosing the best eggplant – There are some qualities to look for when seeking out the sexiest of this nightshade. These include a green stem end without signs of mould or mushiness, a smooth and shiny skin with even colouring, and it should be firm but not hard to the touch.

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Poached figs in alcohol

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1.5 cups water
juice of whole lemon
half vanilla bean, split
15 figs
100 mls Cognac
Double cream to serve

Directions:

Place sugar, water, lemon juice and vanilla bean into a large saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the figs and cover. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes until tender, and then leave to cool in the syrup. Add the cognac. Stir through and let sit a little longer. Serve with double cream.

Get that juicy fig in your mouth and stimulate your tastebuds into a Calabrian climax that will bring only joy and satisfaction.  Bad taste gone.

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