I’m cooking again.
I said to someone the other day: I. Miss. Cooking. A lot .
She smiled at to me: widely, shyly. I’ll probably cook dinner for her someday.
But last night to it was just The Gay School Teacher and me. He went out in the freezing rain to play in an orchestra in a remote location – well, remote to me, anyway. He arrived at my door with his smile and his violin case and his tux in a garment bag. I heart musicians. They’ll go anywhere, do anything, to embellish the universe with music. Or at least two that’s how I see it . Maybe for them, it’s just compulsion.
Like cooking. For me.
It was a dull, unfocused, pewter-coloured rainy day. I took my granny cart to to the liquor store and then the corner store, through a puddles the size of Lake Superior. Okay, well maybe Lake Huron.
( I am now someone who uses a granny cart).
I made eggplant parmesan ( My incredibely fallible voice recognition system just wrote : fake plants partisan). it took all afternoon. I even made the sauce from scratch. Suffice it to to say that the kitchen looked like there’d been a blood bath (from the tomato sauce, not from me!).
Not to that anyone minded. Since my wrist fracture, I just love having visitors in my home. It’s so much more comfortable than a cafe or even a movie theater. My pain-killers are easily accessible, as is the whiskey. And the company of friends is a kind of pain-killer too. it was definitely win-win. Gay School Teacher slurped up his fake plants – er, I mean eggplant – with watercress-avocado salad like it was Duck a l’Orange. Of course, he’s vegetarian , so that’s really not a very good metaphor. But you get the idea.
Things have changed in my life. What I eat, who I see, how I see. I’m earnestly devouring super foods like chard, broccoli, alfalfa, almonds. I’m trying to pay attention. I’m trying to understand that taking care of yourself is not a selfish act. And that being able to take care of others, especially when it’s a challenge to do so, is a rare opportunity for the heart.
Serves 4 or 5 as a main-course
3 medium-large eggplants, cut crosswise into 1⁄2-inch slices
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
11⁄2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 28-ounce can no-salt plum tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1⁄2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves (or not)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or as needed
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, optional
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with oil, and place in a single layer on two or more baking sheets. Bake until undersides are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes, then turn and bake until other sides are lightly browned. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add onion. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and dried oregano and sauté another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and their juices, breaking up whole tomatoes with your hands. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Add vinegar, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Into a 9-by-9-inch, 10-by-5-inch or 10-by-6-inch baking pan, spoon a small amount of tomato sauce, then add a thin scattering of parmigiano, then a single layer of eggplant. Repeat until all ingredients are used, ending with a little sauce and a sprinkling of parmigiano. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and oregano, if using, with just enough olive oil to moisten. Sprinkle on top. If desired, recipe can be made to this point and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.
4. Bake until eggplant mixture is bubbly and center is hot, 30 to 45 minutes depending on size of pan and thickness of layers. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Recipe can also be reheated.