Pasta with eggplant and cream

This dish is not for the faint of heart. Or for those who are watching their weight, for that matter. It’s one in my endless list of comfort foods. The real star, obviously, is the eggplant, a universally known vegetable that is, botanically, a fruit. Originally from India, eggplant were first used in kitchens in Asia and later Europe.

Although any eggplant could work, choose wisely. I prefer smaller eggplants for a few important reasons: the smaller, the least amount of seeds, the least bitter they are. To get rid of the bitterness, my mom’s trick is to dice the fruit and place it a bowl with water and a pinch of salt.

PASTA WITH EGGPLANT AND CREAM

1 or 2 small eggplants

8 fl ounces of heavy whipping cream

1 or 2 cloves of garlic (depending on taste)

500 grams of Pasta (any kind)

salt and pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

After dicing the eggplants, place them aside. In a pan over medium heat, warm up the extra virgin olive oil and add two cloves of garlic. Let the garlic cook for a few minutes until golden. Add the eggplant and cook until soft. In another pot, bring water to a boil.

After about 10 minutes or when the eggplant is soft, add the whipping cream and stir until well mixed. Cook the mixture until the cream is absorbed and the sauce is thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you want to give it a smoky kick, add a pinch of smoked paprika. It’s a subtle, but delicious addition. (For an earthy flavor, add nutmeg).

Once the pasta water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook until it’s al dente. I like to use farfalle for this dish, but you can use any thick cut pasta, one that is able to handle a chunky sauce. (Fusilli is another favorite of mine). Once the pasta is cooked to perfection, drain it and put it back into the pot. Add the eggplant sauce to the pasta and stir until well mixed.

Plate it and serve it hot. You and your guests will ask for seconds, I promise. Buon Appetito!

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The Weekend List 03/05/2012

There is snow in the ground. After a week of mild temperatures and sunny afternoons. There is puffy, soft snow on the ground. My grandpa Pietro taught me how to “smell” snow…or, better, how to tell incoming snow by smelling the air. It always work. Milano’s climate is practically twin with Charlottesville’s: summer is hot and winter is cold. Occasionally, snow covers the landscape. So, according to grandpa, once the air gets crispy, wet, snow is coming. Last night, I felt it: crispy wind, perfect humidity and the scent of snow. It’s undeniable. I woke up this morning and what do you know. Snow happened.

– On a snowy day, there are a few dishes that hit the spot. Ravioli in brodo is definitely one of them. Saveur Magazine has a great recipe. Give it a try when the winter blues hit you.

– Elina Shatkin’s exit interview as a food writer at LA Weekly is a pleasure to read. Granted, food writing is something I have always wanted to explore, but knowing how food writers think, what’s inside their heads, is fascinating. There are so many food bloggers out there that I fear the craft is suffering. Although it may seem easy to write about food, the basic principle remains the same: writing, and Shatkin sums it up perfectly.

8. How do I become a professional food writer?
DO NOT quit your despised but lucrative day job, move across the country and expect to get paid writing work based on your Yelp reviews.

Now, it’s simple: WRITE.

My first question to aspiring writers is always: “Do you write?” You might be surprised — or not — how often the answer is no. If you want to be a writer, on food or anything else, you must spend a lot of time alone with nothing but your thoughts and a computer, a typewriter or a blank piece of paper.

In broad strokes, build a portfolio by writing for low-level websites, blogs and publications. Maybe start your own blog. You will make little or no money doing this, but you will have written stories and made connections that you can use to pitch editors for paid writing work. Keep in mind: Reviewing is only one type of food writing, and it is the subgenre for which you are least likely to get paid.

– Jose Andres can do no wrong. The Spanigh uber chef has added to the Washington D.C. food truck craze with Pepe (Andres is behind the truck’s Spanish twist on sandwiches). As the Washington Post reports, Pepe goodies range from $8 to $11, but there are a few exceptions, like the Pepite de Ternera “a thin, crusty baguette stuffed with seared beef tenderloin, caramelized onion, pepper confit and blue cheese.” Ah, two hours to D.C. is so doable!