Friday, November 13, 2009

Italian Comfort Food

Ah, Italia. Have its residents ever cooked anything that wasn't delicioso?

You can do it, too, thanks to Ashley Bartner who, with her husband, Chef Jason,  own the popular La Tavola Marche Agriturismo and Cooking School in Piobbico. They shared a pair of their wonderful recipes.

Stuffed Tomatoes
Pomodori Ripieni

serves 4

4 ripe round tomatoes (about the size of a tennis ball)
4 TBS rice
1/4 yellow onion, chopped
clove of garlic, skin removed
herbs of your choice, I use basil or parsley
olive oil
salt & pepper

Wash your tomatoes & slice off the tops; with a spoon, hollow out the flesh of the the tomato being careful not to pierce the cup you are making.

Save the pulp & juice, pass through a food mill or give it a turn in the food processor, blender, etc.

In a small pot, brown 1 clove of garlic in a glug of olive oil.

Remove & discard.

Then on low heat, slowly sauté your onion until it is translucent - approximately 10 minutes.

Add in your rice & sauté for 1 minute, then raise heat & add tomato pulp.

Season with salt & pepper.

Bring to a low simmer for a minute or two. Remove from heat and add in herbs.

NOTE: If you are using a different rice other than long grain white rice, you will need to par-cook the rice first, for example brown rice, wild rice, etc.
Also this is where you can be creative. Incorporate shrimp with the onions or a little ground veal or sausage if you like; also veggies work great too.

Spoon mixture into cups of tomatoes and replace the tops of the tomatoes.

Bake in a casserole dish with a little olive oil rubbed on the bottom at 375 F/ 190 C for 20-30 minutes.

When the rice is cooked and the tomatoes have started to split it’s done.

Serve hot warm or cold with a drizzle good olive oil atop.

Stuffed Eggplant

Says Ashley: "Oh these are goooood! Just like a little mini quiche tucked into nice little eggplant 'shells' just beggin' to be eaten!  This is a great go-to recipe for a dinner party or when you want to make a few dishes a bit earlier since it's served at room temp. Also a hearty fill for the vegetarians out there (not that there are any in Italy!)."

Serves 4

4 eggplants
3 Tbs olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 red or green bell peppers, halved, seeded & chopped
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbs Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
salt & pepper

Halve the eggplants lengthwise & scoop out the flesh without piercing the ‘shells’.

Chop the flesh & save the shells.

Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until soft. 

Add the chopped eggplant flesh, celery, bell peppers and tomatoes, season with salt & pepper and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush an ovenproof dish with olive oil. 

Remove the pan from the heat & stir in the eggs.  Fill the eggplant shells with the mixture and place in the prepared dish.

Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake until golden & bubbling!

Remove from the oven and let cool.
Serve cold/at room temperature.

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