Cooking Without Recipes

I love books, and I like to cook–well, frankly, I like to eat what I cook–but to my mind, books don’t belong in the kitchen. Interrupting the chopping, pouring and stirring to squint down at a page of Garamond 8 nestled among moist, sticky or greasy containers ruins the flow of activity for me and cuts into the music or podcast, daydreaming or conversation that I like to lose myself in while I cook. I wouldn’t like to get up from reading in my lawn chair to chop an onion, so why should the opposite not apply?

Here is a non-recipe. Just read through it and go make it.

Eggplant Parm

Best eggplants are the ones that are egg-shaped and purple/white, not the really dark, long kind although they’re ok too. Slice as thin as possible. Fry in 1/3 in. olive oil. (They will soak up a ton, add more after each batch. P.S. The Tuscans use last year’s oil for cooking and this year’s for dressing salads.) Make sure they are cooked through, i.e., not rubbery or chewy at all but melt-in-your mouth. Burned is fine. Drain onto paper towel, sprinkle with S&P, layer by layer.
eggplantMake tomato sauce. Brown a slivered clove or two of garlic in some olive oil. Add passata di pomodoro. Cook down until thickened (the thicker the better so just let it boil away).

Grate a huge chunk of parm.

Make eggplant then sauce then cheese layers until baking dish is almost full. Some people put rondelles of mozz on top.

Bake until it’s bubbling and top and edges are blackening in places. 20-30 min?

Key is that eggplant is cooked through when fried, otherwise it’s disgusting. You can also grill all the eggplant instead of frying it. Never tried that but my friend Lisa does it and it’s way lighter and also yummy.

2 thoughts on “Cooking Without Recipes”

  1. Well I am fascinated with your story and it seems Jumpa Lahiri also fell in love with everything Italian and he latest book is written in Italian! Being a romantic I was saddened that your marriage did not last and it seemed to me that you were a perfect couple. I am sure he has never found anyone as interesting and resourceful as you. Thanks for the recipes and I will follow your ongoing histoire. Lois Titherington

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    1. Lois, Thanks for your comment. There is a review of Jhumpa’s book in the Times this week…I’d like to write more on cooking in the coming months as I am continually struck by the fundamentally different approach here. All the best, Jem

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