Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I have started giving cooking classes in my town, Bonn. It took some time for the city (represented by the Volkshochschule) to realize the need of offering public classes in English but once they started I was right there to offer my contribution.
Nothing better than some tasty Sicilian food, right? So I decided to offer two classes delving on Sicilian cuisine (one of them for vegetarians) and so far the answer has been excellent!
The first class took place last Wednesday among a suitcase full of ingredients and a load of papers to distribute.
We were a total of 15 in a space containing 3 useful cooking stations.
I had devised a 4 courses menu with traditional and original recipes invented by yours truly, so to showcase the range of flavors we find in Sicilian cuisine.
We started by an all-time classic: Pasta alla Norma (rigatoni pasta with basil-tomato sauce served with fried eggplants and aged ricotta).
For this purpose I had brought some of the cheese straight from my home town in Sicily, from a local cheesemonger who produces some of the most amazing sheep's cheeses I have ever tasted.
As main course I have developed a recipe for Meatballs Sicilian style, spiced with fennel seeds, pine nuts and raisins, that we served with another staple of our cuisine: Orange salad.
The dessert was the Pistachios Cuccìa I already proposed you in a past post.
By the end of the evening we had polished everything we cooked. For once, my recipes were balanced (also considering the multi-courses menu)!!
Next class will take place next Wednesday and we will cook Vegetarian treats. We will start with a Pasta with fried Zucchini and oregano.
Aside the cooking classes, March deadlines include the monthly Secret Recipe Club appointment. This time I was assigned with Amanda's blog Dancing Veggies where she posts her experimentations with vegetarian treats.
With my momentary food restrictions, I could only afford to cook (and eat) few of her recipes and was particularly attracted by her Baked eggplants with tomato sauce. It also gave me the chance of trying to cook eggplants in the oven (a leaner version than the canonic frying pan).
I have adapted the coating to accommodate for my grain/gluten restrictions so I decided to use roasted chickpea flour. This also allowed me to skip on the egg since the chickpea flour forms a rather sticky coating by itself.
Crispy baked Eggplants with fragrant Tomato sauce
- 1 small eggplant
- 2 tablespoon roasted chickpea flour
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon minced scallion
- salt & pepper
For the tomato sauce:
- Extra-Virgin Olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- Red chili flakes to taste
- 1 small can of tomato chunks in juice
- Basil leaves to taste
Cut the eggplant into thick slices, around 1cm-2/3", salt them on both sides and place on a colander under a weight for around 20 minutes. They will loose some of their bitter water and gain in texture.
In the meantime prepare the tomato sauce.
In a small saucepan place some olive oil, 1 tablespoon of water and the minced garlic clove. Let the pan heat over medium fire until almost all the water will be evaporated; you will be able to smell the garlic at this point too. Carefully pour the canned tomatoes into the hot pan followed by a pinch of baking soda and the red-chili flakes (if using). Add half the tomato-tin in hot water and let the sauce simmer for a good 30 minutes.
When the eggplant will be ready, heat ur oven to 200C/400F. Rinse the eggplant slices under cold water and gently squeeze each slice between your hands to eliminate the excess moisture. Reserve them on a plate.
Prepare the coating mixture by combining all the ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl.
Using your fingers, press some of the chickpea mixture on each side of the eggplant slices and lay them on a baking tray coated with olive oil. Drizzle some more olive oil on top of the eggplants and place it into the hot oven for 15-20 minutes or until both side will have a nice golden color. Since the bottom side will most probably cook faster than the top, flip the eggplant slices over and cook for further 5-10 minutes.
In the meantime that the eggplants are cooking, the tomato sauce should be ready to be seasoned with salt, sugar and a little lemon juice, if needed.
At this point immerse completely the basil leaves/branches into the tomato sauce, cover with a lid and let the sauce steep out of the fire for 5-10 minutes.
When the eggplants will be ready, transfer them to a serving plate alongside some of the tomato sauce (you can leave the basil behind if you want).
For a more hearty meal, you can add some noodles seasoned with the tomato sauce to the dish.