Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Em espera ordens do juiz da partida - Under starters orders

White bean purée with horseradish fava beans and rocket
Before we get caught up in the whirlwind that is "the season" I need to get myself focussed on this years new dinner menus.There´s hurly and there´s burly but just like Mary Brazzle, one´s system must always be in equilibrium and ready for any challenge that may face us.Perhaps a vegetarian in the house, a coeliac or a vegan.There´s always the chance that the lady in room 2 is not comfortable with butter, or the young man in room 3 has a nut allergy,which means his partner can not have granola topping on their breakfast either to avoid the incidence of transferrence when kissing. Whatever the requirement, one must always be ready for every surprise that is thrown at one. Its only Easter but I have a month to get myself prepared and all dishes tried and tested.First in the starting blocks is a vintage runner who has been around the track as many times as I´ve had hot dinners.Yes its Aubergine Parmigiana.This Italian classic is always favourite of mine when dining a l`Italien.My favoured recipe for home cooking has always been Marcella Hazan´s.Normally served as a main course it can sometimes be a little overwhelming in its richness so i decided to make individual portions in small ramekins as 
an appetizer.

 Aubergine parmigiana
from Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Serves 6

1.5 kg(3lbs) pounds aubergine
Coarse Flor de sal
vegetable oil
flour, for dredging
500g(18oz) can of San Marzano whole tomatoes,coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
300g(11oz) fresh buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
8 - 10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
50g( 2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Remove the stems from the aubergine and slice into thin rounds {about 1/4" thick}. Line the inside of a colander with one layer of sliced eggplant and sprinkle with kosher salt. Lay the next layer on top of the first and sprinkle with more salt. Continue this process until all the eggplant is salted. Prop the colander over a bowl and let drain for at least 30 minutes. Pat the eggplant dry before proceeding. (If you go a little overboard with the salt, you can also rinse the salt off and pat dry.)
2. Pour enough oil in a large skillet to fill to a depth of 1". Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the aubergines in the flour shaking off any excess. Continue this process, cooking the eggplant in batches, about 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel lined platter.
3.Put the tomatoes and olive oil in another skillet,turn the heat to medium-high,add salt,stir and cook the tomato down until it has reduced by half.
4. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Grease a baking dish or individual ramekins. Line the bottom of the dish or ramekins with a single layer of eggplant slices. Spread some of the cooked tomato over the eggplant, followed by a layer of mozzarella and a bit of the basil. Repeat the process, ending with a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and place the dish or ramekins in the upper third of the pre-heated oven. Check after it has been in the oven for 20 minutes by pressing down the layered aubergine with the back of a spoon,and draw off any excess liquid.Cook for a further 15 minutes,and after taking it out allow it to settle for several minutes before serving.
Make ahead: This dish can be made several days in advance and stored, covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Reheat in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Next up a new kid on the block,fresh and spectacular on the spectators plate.I am hoping that white bean purée with horseradish, Serrano ham and fava beans will be a hot contender for a place among the new starters.

White bean purée with horseradish 

fava beans and rocket (above)
The quantity of white bean purée will leave you with a fair amount left over that can be kept in the refrigerator for serving later.

260g (drained weight ) can of cannel ini beans
2 heaped teaspoons horseradish cream
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 slice of Presunto Serrano,Prosciutto or any cured ham per serving
1 handful of rocket per serving
1 slice of toasted rustic artesian bread per serving
50g  broad beans,podded cooked and shelled

Whizz beans in the processor with the horseradish,extra virgin olive oil and the juice and zest of a lime.Fry the Presunto Serrano ham in a dry pan over allow heat until starting to crispen up. Place a handful of rocket on each slice of toast.top with a generous portion of white bean purée.Place your slice of crispy ham on the top and scatter shelled and split fava beans over the dish and around the plate.

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