Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Melanzana alla Michoacana

I think of all the cuisines of the world that I've tried, I like best that of Italy. Fortunately, with a bit of flexibility, appropriate ingredients can be found here in Michoacán.

Yesterday, we had our two neighbors to comida. They'd just returned from a long weekend in Mexico City.

I decided that an Italian meal would be suitable to welcome them home. The menu we decided on began with a mixed salad with bocconcini (cheese marinated in herbed olive oil); eggplant parmigiana, a simple, fusilli or rigatoni pasta, and a variation on the theme of Sicilian cannoli, with fresh, local blackberries.

Most Thursdays, and sometimes other days, we can get eggplants in the Pátzcuaro mercado, at the vegetable stand of Familia los Padilla. They also have nice basil, sweet peppers in various colors, and other specialty vegetables.

The bocconcini were based on a recipe from Joyce Goldstein's Mediterranean Cooking, with the addition of sun dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives. To make it, a cup of olive oil is gently warmed. Oregano, a bit of red chile, black pepper, crushed garlic and salt are briefly infused in the oil. When cool, it's poured over a pound of small cubes of mozzarella. I used a package of little balls of cheese from Cremería Aguascalientes. They weren't as soft and mellow as real, fresh mozzarella balls, but they were adequate. The cheese is left to marinate several hours at room temperature.

The salad itself had romaine lettuce, sweet red and yellow peppers, seeded chopped cucumber and vine tomatoes (purchased at Costco. These are really the best tasting tomatoes I've yet found in Mexico. Amazingly, they are grown in Ontario!)

The Melanzana alla Parmigiana was based on a simple recipe by Marcella Hazan. I sliced three medium eggplants about 1/2 inch thick. Unlike the Hazan recipe, I didn't peel them. The slices are salted and left to stand upright at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, I prepared the sauce. Two cans of S&W sliced Italian Style tomatoes (from Costco) were drained. I then coarsely chopped them in the food processor.

Next, about 1/2 cup of chopped onions and 2 cloves of garlic, were sauteed in some of the oil, over low heat in a large, wide pot. As they began to turn golden, I put in the chopped tomatoes, These were cooked briefly and
I added 1 can of Cidacos brand Spanish ground tomatoes. (Superama or Wal-Mart in Morelia). This was seasoned with a little salt, some Asian fish sauce (could have added some finely minced anchovies, but I didn't want to open a can); hot Spanish paprika and a squirt of red wine vinegar.

After cooking on a low flame some 20 minutes, I then added chopped fresh basil (from los Padilla) and a good pinch of Mexican oregano. The tastings indicated a couple of tablespoons of sugar would be a good addition.
I like to make extra Italian tomato sauce to freeze, but we used all but two cups of this batch.

Meanwhile, back at the eggplant: the slices were patted dry on paper towels, and fried of medium-high heat in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and canola oil; turning once when brown on the underside. It was necessary to do this in two batches.
As they emerged from the frying pan, they were again blotted on paper towels.

Asssembly: in a 12 inch diameter pottery casserole, I put a single layer of fried eggplant, followed by a thorough covering of tomato sauce.
That was followed by a generous shower of coarsely shredded mozzarella, and a couple of tablespons of Queso Reggianito. (A Latin American facsimile of Parmigiano Reggiano, but much less expensive. At Costco.)

Repeated with a second layer of eggplant, sauce, and finishing wih cheeses.
This goes into a 400ºF oven for 20 minutes, at which time any surplus liquid is spooned off. Then returned to oven for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, a large pot of well salted water was brought to a boil, and approximately 300 grams of short pasta
added (in this instance, Barilla Fusilli. Costco, Wal-Mart and other stores.)

Back to the salad: when it was attractively assembled by Susan in a large, wooden salad bowl, I drained the bocconcini and placed them atop the salad.

With some of the marinade, I added enough red wine vinegar to make a vinaigrette dressing, correcting the seasoning.

Nostra Melanzana alla Michoacana was luscious. I'm having an eggplant sandwich for breakfast. It won't be as richly lush as this one, but it will be enough.

We had a loaf or two of Mercado Soriana Panadería's sesame Baguet. I think it was 6 pesos a loaf.
With this meal, we drank water and glasses of our everyday vino tinto, Concha y Toro Seleccíon Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend. Costco, 6 bottles for $299 pesos.

Dessert details will have to be the subject of a separate post.

Images from Internet sources.


Theresa in Mèrida said...

That photos makes my mouth water and my tummy rumble! Yum. I marinated mozarella recently but it isn't as tasty as the bocconcini that Costco sometimes sells. The cheese selection is seriously lacking here in Merida.

Tancho said...

Sounds like a keeper Michael, Now I have a mission next Thursday! Thanks for the recipe and photos, keep'em coming.

Tancho said...

Michael, where is los Padilla, is it inside the mercado or out on the street? By where the Indian women are? It will save me some time wandering around, thanks

Don Cuevas said...

Ken, from the main, Plaza Chica entrance, go up, up the market street (Libertad) until you come to a cross street to the left (Codallos).

Move along there about 100 feet or so. You'll see a large door above some short steps. The stand of Los Padilla is right below it. Also, there's a farmacia segunda clase above it, just to the right of the stairs.

Almost across the street is a long corridor with various shops; shoes, plastic goods, Santa Muerte, and yarn.

The young man who usually helps us is Arturo. I don't know the mother's name.

M'garv said...

Questions about Mexican pastas: Do you have any favorite brands? I like Moderno, but I'm not sure it's a national brand. Also, at Soriano in Nogales, Sonora, I've found an unbelievable selection of shapes and sizes - some very whimsical. (Even a bigger selection than at Italian specialty shops in NYC!)

Finally, how popular is pasta in Mexico? Is it more a middle class food?

And most Mexicans I know use the word espegetti (sp?) as the general word - never pasta. Has that been your experience, too?

The eggplant recipe is a winner, Mike. Beautiful and easy! Thanks. (Although I won't salt the eggplant - too much sodium.)

Don Cuevas said...

M'garv, I think Moderno is nationally distributed. One of their plants, at least, is near Toluca. I try to avoid using it, except for small shapes that my wife likes to have as a snack in Knorr Suiza Caldo. (Speaking of sodium!)

I use Barilla. They also have a plant in Mexico. I think it's superior to Moderno. It is less starchy and holds up better.

"Espaguettis" is a common term, but I've also seen "pastas" as in "Sopa de Pastas".

It may well be more a middle-class Mexican food. Around here in el campo, the big carb is arroz. Probably everyday fare and extra at fiestas.

The salting of the eggplant is probably unnecessary if your eggplants are small and young. But it may help to reduce the absorption of excess amounts of oil.
The excess oil is, to me, a bigger issue than the excess sodium.

I used a mixture of mostly Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus canola oil.

Notable about this recipe is that there's no breading or even flouring on the eggplant slices.

Buen provecho,

Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

This looks great. I am making my first home made ravioli on Sunday but I will make this early next week.