I was one of those people who thought that I could never read books on screens. I thought that I could never give up the feel and smell of the ink and paper, the way I hold the books in my hand, wore out the pages, highlight the paragraphs.
Then I had to pack all my books and carry them to a storage place to make it easier to paint the whole house.
Then I had to carry all of those boxes back to the house when I was done with the back-breaking painting.
The first thing I did after the painting was to welcome Kindle Paperwhite into my life. With great joy! I still like my cookbooks, textbooks, reference books in print. But for most others, I enjoy the immense memory of the Kindle, and being able to carry all the books with me. Of course, it comes with the downside of buying more books on a whim with a faster speed than I can finish them. Provence,1970 by Luke Barr was one of those books that I stumbled upon on a Saturday morning and purchased with an intention of reading much later. Then I said to myself, “Just one chapter”. Three days later, it was all done. The book almost makes you feel like you are reading a big culinary gossip magazine of 70s with all the names you know (Julia Child, James Beard, and M.F.K. Fisher to name a few), how opinionated they were with their craft, how they shaped the understanding of French cuisine and what they really thought about each other.
That is how I got to know about Richard Olney and checked out his book, Simple French Food, from the library to see his recipes. I certainly loved this casserole recipe and I am sure it can be repeated with different variations. I found it to be a very informative cookbook and I enjoyed a nice change of scenery with illustrations rather than highly propped food pictures. After reading Provence, 1970, I am sure you will look at that period in a different light and I bet, in some chapters, you will say to yourself “Who knew?!”.
- 1-1/2 lbs eggplant (small elongated variety, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick , if larger variety is used, slice crosswise)
- Olive oil for frying
(My variation: I used 1 lbs of eggplant and several small yellow squash that I had to finish. I think this is a great recipe to finish vegetables you have on hand on their last days of ripeness) Fry the slices in batches until they are golden color on both sides. Place them on paper towels to soak up the excess oil. After making the tomato stew and mixing the cheese custard, layer in a baking dish as follows:
- Layer eggplant slides on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle pepper, some parmesan and chopped basil.
- Pour the tomato sauce over the first layer. Place the second layer of vegetables.
- Pour the cheese custard on top. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan. Place in a preheated oven (400 degrees) and bake for 10 min. Reduce the temperature down to 375 degrees and bake for another 25-30 min until it is nice golden brown on top.
(My variation: I did not have any tomatoes on hand. I used about 1 cup of jarred basic pasta sauce. I skipped onions)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound tomatoes , peeled, seeded cut into pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- pinch of cayenne
Saute the onion in olive oil until it is soft and yellow. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir several times on high heat. Simmer for 15 min or until the juice from the tomatoes is reduced.
- 4 ounces of ricotta or other fresh white cheese (I used goat cheese)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the ricotta and egg. Add the Parmesan and beat with a fork until all combined. Add heavy cream. It should be pourable custard consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- handful of fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan