Friday, March 9, 2007

dinner & a movie


like many people I love those end of the year top ten lists of films. since I don't make it to the movie houses often these lists are terrific to use when picking out dvds. on quite a few lists was "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu." I put a hold on the film through the public library (by the way the cleveland area public libraries rank among the nations best!). when the movie came in last week we invited a couple of fellow movie lovers over for dinner and a movie. in honor of the movie's romanian roots I thought it would be a fun to serve romanian food - so I referenced a couple of my favorite cookbooks. not really up for making homemade sausages (the 'main dish' offered from the frugal gourmet's immigrant ancestor cookbook) I decided to concentrate on a romanian side dish. I took the easy way out for a main course and fell back on serving "haluski," (okay so it's slovak and not romanian - but it's a favorite among my family and is pure comfort food). the recipe for the eggplant dish is the whole point of today's post - all four of us loved it and honestly couldn't get enough.

the following recipe is adapted slightly from the recipe found in "The New York Cookbook" by Molly O'Neill (I thought that recipe called for a bit too much oil and anyway I didn't have any safflower oil in my pantry, I eliminated the call for 1/3 cup of it and increased the olive oil from 1/4 to 1/3 cup).

Romanian Eggplant Salad (thank you Alex Goren who provided Molly with the recipe!)
2 eggplants (about 1 pound each)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt - or more to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon milk
1 fresh tomato, sliced
15 black olives (I used oil-cured olives from our local italian market - be an olive snob and find an olive bar to get your olives from!)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and chopped coarsely

1. Roast each eggplant, turning frequently over a flame or under a broiler, until the skin is charred all over, 20-25 minutes.
2. Using a sharp knife, peel the eggplants and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Quarter the eggplants lengthwise and discard as many seeds as possible (this takes gentleness as you don't want to take away the fleshy meat). Toss with 1 teaspoon of sea salt, then place the eggplants in a stainless-steel or other non-aluminum colander or strainer and squeeze out as much water as possible. Allow to drain in colander for at least 30 minutes. Blot up any excess moisture with paper towels.
3. Mush up the eggplant in a glass or ceramic bowl and stir constantly with a wooden spoon and slowly add the oil and remaining salt. Stirring, add the milk.
4. Spread out the eggplant on a large plate or wide flat bowl, use a fork to score lines on the surface. Garnish with tomato slices, olives, and red onion.

Makes 2 1/2 cups, serves 4-6.

by the way, about the movie - I believe it definitely does deserve the accolades. however, I offer one caution - beware of the proclamation that the movie is a comedy - unless of course you start out having a very broad and kaftaesque notion of comedy. I was thoroughly taken by the tragic mr. lazarescu and along with being worried about his fate I just kept wondering about what would happen to his poor sweet cats upon his death.

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