A long time ago a couple of Italian entrees sort of became my signature dishes. If you were a dinner guest in our house during the 70s or 80s, you were probably served either a meatless version of eggplant parmigiano or my homemade manicotti (even the manicotti was made from scratch). As my relatives in the south would say, “it was fit to eat!” Alas, I began to actually enjoy cooking at around the time the country began to be health conscious. First fat was bad. Then fat was okay, it was the transfat that was bad. At that point I threw out the margarine and started eating the butter I preferred. Then carbohydrates were bad. Now some carbohydrates are good, some are bad. For several years I’ve hated cooking.
If I do say so myself, last night Hubby and I ate a scrumptious eggplant parmigiano for dinner. Inspired somewhat by the beautiful summertime bounty, I cooked it myself, since Stouffer’s and others can’t compare. We discussed the pros and cons of preparation beforehand. How best to cook it. With breading. Without. Dipped and deep fried. Or baked. We decided a halfway compromise was a good solution. Dip the eggplant slices in egg, roll them in Panko breadcrumbs, lay them side by side on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven until they’re golden instead of (see me shuttttttterrrrrrr!) frying, then layer them with mozzarella and parmagiano cheeses, then bake again until the cheese melts and begins to turn golden brown. That sounded fair.
So I went to work. Then, just as I’d finished the initial preparation with my male eggplant slices, something evil took hold of my hand and reached for the oil which I poured to about an inch depth in the large frying pan. Almost without thinking I dipped the slices into the egg, rolled them about in the crumbs, pressing gently, and placed them in the hot oil. Turning once to brown the other side, after they were a beautiful golden color I turned them onto a paper-lined basket to drain. When I was finished, I made two layers of eggplant, tomato sauce, homemade is good but canned works almost as well, topped each layer with grated mozzarella, then doused the whole top with a good Parmagiano and baked for 20 or 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
[ML in Pittsburgh, if you happen to read this, the first word out of Hubby’s mouth on his first bite was YUMM! Just the way you used to say it except for the chest beating. Okay, as trustworthy person who insists on honesty no matter what, I’ll admit one thing. I had to get up for a Tum around 3:30 in the morning, but it wasn’t so bad (only a one-Tum problem) and the delectable eggplant was well worth it.]
So I’ve finally figured out things, I think. I don’t hate cooking because I’m a bad cook. I’m just inundated with too much–and overly critical–food hype. My cooking could taste like many restaurants if I have only taste buds and patrons (family) to please rather than health pundits. I’m pretty sure few restaurants skip on any or all those ingredients that make food taste good, especially butter. I at least curtail and try to use those moderately. Moderation, that’s my rule. And when I think of the fat and carbohydrates my ancestors consumed over their lifetimes, I remember that many of them–the women especially–lived well into their 80s and 90s. But they kept themselves active. Therein, I suspect, lies the secret. Eat whatever you want in moderation, include as many vegetable and fruits in the menu, and get out there and move instead of sitting all day in front of your computer!
Gotta go now. I need to harness up the mule and go plow that “south 40.”