After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years—La Cuisine: the Cook’s Resource, in Alexandria, Virginia—Nancy Pollard now writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues. She and her husband, the Wine Maniac, have recently moved to Italy.
LOOKING DEEP INTO my crisper at this time of year, there are always extra eggplants and tomatoes that have worn out their welcome at room temperature and are uttering their last gasp in the fridge. Where I lived in Virginia, at the end of September, I always noticed at the farm markets a hoarding tendency among shoppers—with dwindling collections of the last of the local peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini (who knew that zucchini would ever have a last breath?). I too suffer from the squirrel complex, clinging to the end of summer’s produce. This often calls for some creativity. As much as I love a good eggplant parm, there are other presentations. The eggplants-with-anchovies recipe offered here works with any eggplant except the really small ones. Roma or San Marzano-type plum tomatoes work better than the round varieties, although I have also used the tired Early Girls that have survived from the BLT stash.
This eggplants-with-anchovies recipe is one I have snitched from British food writer Geraldene Holt. I have altered it so that there is less liquid and a bit more cooking time, but it is a lovely presentation of last-of-the-season eggplant and tomatoes, aided by my good friends garlic, anchovies, and olive oil. The cookbook itself, Recipes From a French Herb Garden, has the most inviting photos—and while you may not be wild about cooking with lots of herbs (the other half in our household is a bit leery when he sees lots of little bits of green in my cooking), it may encourage you to go beyond parsley.
We sold whichever cookbook titles written by Geraldene Holt we could get at La Cuisine. Ms. Holt started out as a distinguished British potter until her work was decimated by a fire. She then started baking for an open-air market in Devon and was invited by a publisher to write about her successful cakes and pastries. This baking turn after a disaster created a new career for her. Her original book on cakes written from her year at an open-air stall, has been revamped, retested and expanded. Cakes, which I have just purchased, is a British (with some French touches) take on cakes, cookies, tea breads, and pastries, and since my daughter has become a fan of Victoria Sponge and Drizzle Cake, I need to catch up. I love Holt’s historical perspective on food, as well as her ability to create something fresh from her garden and pantry. She writes beautifully, which adds an extra layer of delight. You will also enjoy reading through her refreshingly restrained website.
Eggplants With Anchovies
- 2 to 4 eggplants (use the long, thin eggplants, not the large round ones for this dish)
- 1 large shallot finely chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped or minced through a press
- 4 anchovy filets
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat parsley
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 or 3 ripe tomatoes, sliced (Roma or San Marzano tomatoes work well, as do smaller ones like Early Girl)
- A sprinkling of sea salt
- Wipe eggplants clean and slice in half lengthwise.
- Preheat your oven to 350F and oil a baking dish.
- Place eggplant cut side down on your work surface and make three or four lengthwise cuts, but not all the way through—your eggplant should resemble the leaves of a book.
- Pound the shallot, garlic clove, anchovies, basil, parsley and some of the olive oil together in a mortar and pestle, or blitz them in a blender or processor (the texture from the mortar and pestle is better, I think).
- Spread this mixture over the eggplant halves and allow some to go into the lengthwise cuts.
- Put a tomato slice in each of the eggplant slits, and place the dressed eggplants in the oiled baking dish. (I have found that ceramic works best for this—better than glass or metal—but no matter the choice, the dish will turn out well.
- Trickle the remaining olive oil over the top of the eggplants and finish with a sprinkling of sea salt.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for at least 45 minutes. The eggplants should be tender when you test with a knife.
- You can remove the foil for the last 15 minutes if you want to develop a bit of a crust.
- The dish can be served warm or later at room temperature.
- Holt adds water to the eggplants, but with the ones I have baked, it was not necessary.
- I have refrigerated these and then slightly warmed them in the oven, so they make great leftovers.
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