Monday, October 20, 2008

Pastiche of the day

For 3 days, while Peter was out of town, I ate a monotonously delicious diet. His last night home I made turkey Milanese, cutlets dredged in flour, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs, and lightly fried. I had brined the cutlets in salt and sugar water for several hours and they were practically falling apart even before cooking. I fried them in 1/8" of vegetable oil for exactly 2 minutes per side and they were wonderful.

I cooked only what we were going to eat that evening and stored the rest under plastic in the fridge. The next night I cooked what was left and had enough for two dinners. My lunches were gravlax (made last weekend) on toast. I was in culinary heaven.

Last night Peter was back home and I wanted to make something special. In fact, I made 2 somethings special: eggplant puree and what I must call a pastiche. ‘Splain that to me, Lucy.

First of all the eggplant puree recipe came from an internet recipe. It stewed gently on the stove for about 3 hours until a little judicious mashing with a potato masher turned it into a soft and delicious puree – a little spicy, but not past our point of tolerance. If such a dish interests you, go that google thing. You'll find dozens of different possibilities.

The pastiche is an object lesson in what to do without having to go shopping. We all have various and sundry things in the pantry, sometimes for so long we don’t even remember buying them. Here’s what I found: Israeli couscous, homemade chicken stock, celery, ½ a yellow bell pepper, ½ an onion, and 2 brat sausages I bought thinking I would eat them while Peter was away.

Pastiche of the day

Chop a stalk of celery. Chop the bell pepper. Chop the onion. So far pretty easy, say what?

Chop up the brats – no need to remove the casings. Put all of the above in a sauté pan with a bit of olive oil and a nice fat clove of garlic and cook until the sausage is no more than slightly pink.

Add 2 cups of chicken stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the couscous and simmer uncovered until it’s tender, about 6-8 minutes (I wasn’t watching the clock). Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the concoction is too wet (mine was), strain off the excess liquid and save it.

That’s all there was to it. The result was extremely satisfying. There’s enough of it, and enough eggplant, to provide a lunch today.

If I seem pedantic and didactic, it’s because I am. The whole purpose of my blog postings is to inspire the home cook to get busy and creative. The eggplant dish could certainly be made a day ahead. I was making it on a Sunday, so available time was no issue. My pastiche took 30 minutes including both prep and cooking time. If you don’t have 30 minutes to devote to a delicious and nutritious dinner, do carry-out.

For a free excerpt of my book, “A Year of Food,” in which I opine, report, cook, muse and philosophize about everything that passed my lips for an entire year, write to me at:

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