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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Recipes from an Italian Summer Cookbook... A Review & A Great Summer Recipe!

Indulge Your Senses with...
Recipes from an Italian Summer!

"Recipes from an Italian Summer a collection put together by the Editors of Phaidon Press... A Beautiful FAT cookbook with warm weather recipes. The emphasis here is fresh, wonderful ingredients that are abundant in the summer. Fresh produce, fruits and berries, and herbs. 380 recipes for lighter, easy-to-follow summer dishes with big beautiful photographs." That's what I wrote after I had seen this gorgeous cookbook in the bookstore back at the end of June. Now that I have it in my hands and have been cooking from it, I can say it meets all my expectations and more! It's the perfect summer companion!

When you first open up Recipes from an Italian Summer, besides noticing the beautiful artwork, you'll see where the cookbook is going to take you.. Picnics, Salads, Barbecues, Light Lunches and Suppers, Summer Entertaining, Desserts and finally Ice Creams and Drinks. At the beginning of each chapter is a wonderful introduction to what you're about to tempt your taste buds with and it's relevance to summer,

"The huge range of antipasti, appetizers, and salads in the Italian summer repertoire provide a wonderful source of inspiration for picnic food. Dishes such as frittatas, cold risottos, pies and terrines are easy to transport, and work very well at picnics alongside the more traditional filled sandwiches, cold meats, cheeses and salads." ...intro to picnic recipes

The recipes that follow are easy, with easy to find fresh ingredients that should satisfy our summer eating. From making your own mayonnaise, to making a delicious Tomato tartare with basil. Using the fresh apples you have, there's a recipe for Apple strudel, which you can make the day ahead. Or how about Baked ricotta with sun-dried tomato pesto as an appetizer for summer entertaining that's in the oven for only 10 minutes! The range of recipes is amazing, going from simple salads to more exotic dishes such as Swordfish carpaccio with caper sauce. There's a recipe for Summer stuffed peppers that you can serve hot or cold that looks delicious, and a traditional Italian recipe for Sweet and Sour meatballs. And there are plenty of desserts , such as Blueberry tart, or Peaches with summer zabaglione! This is a cookbook that can satisfy that urge you have in the summer to cook a little lighter, refreshing meal with fresh local grown ingredients!

For my own search for fresh ingredients, I decided to choose a recipe where I could use some of the beautiful purple eggplants that have arrived at my market lately. And thanks to the publisher, Phaidon, I have their permission to share this easy, delicious summer recipe with you! Here it is...

Stuffed Eggplants
Melanzane ripiene
*recipe reprinted with permission of Phaidon Press Inc.

4 Eggplants
6 Tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing and dotting
olive oil, for frying
7 ounces ground beef
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
salt and pepper

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Halve the eggplants lengthwise and scoop out and reserve most of the flesh from each half.

Sprinkle the eggplant skins with salt and turn them upside down to let the excess water drain.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease an ovenproof dish with butter. Heat a little oil in a skillet, add the ground beef, and cook over medium-high heat for a few minutes until browned. Set aside.

To make the bechamel sauce, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium pan over low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk and bring to a boil. Cook and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened. Remove the pan from the head, stir in the nutmeg, season with salt and pepper, and let cool slightly. Rinse the eggplant shells and pat dry with paper towels.

Chop the reserved eggplant and stir it into the sauce with the egg, meat and cheese, then season with salt and pepper. Fill the eggplant shells with this mixture, put them into the prepared dish, dot with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes, until the topping is crisp and golden. Serve immediately.

This recipe was absolutely delicious! I have always had eggplant in a tomato type sauce, so I didn't know what to expect using the bechamel sauce, which is a cream sauce. And now I know what I've been missing! The cream sauce complimented the flavor of the eggplant instead of drowning it! *A few personal notes about the recipe... This recipe called for 4 Eggplants, which I believe are suppose to be the smaller italian eggplants (In the photo in the cookbook all eight eggplant halves fit in one large baking dish). I used the larger American eggplants and baked them for 60 minutes in 2 baking dishes, just making sure that the top was crisp and golden. Different eggplants have different flavors too, so it's fun to try different kinds. Just make sure that you bake whichever eggplants you choose for the minimum of 30 minutes, and make sure the tops are crisp before serving.

I want to thank the publishers, Phaidon, for sending me this wonderful cookbook to review! And for letting me share a recipe! I'll be cooking quite a bit from this cookbook all summer long and then some! If you enjoy summer cooking, and enjoy using the fresh ingredients that the summer season is known for, Recipes from an Italian Summer would be a great cookbook to add to your cookbook shelf! I hope everyone enjoys this recipe! Let me know what you think if you do!


The Yard Bard said...

I've never tried eggplant (my mom says it's "slimy and gross"), but this looks delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Bechamel sauce is also terrific on Spinach and Porcini Lasagne...

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Yard Bard!
Well, eggplant holds a lot of water, so I can understand the "slimy" reference, but that's why it's important to salt the eggplant and have the salt draw out all the extra moisture before using it. This recipe for stuffed eggplant bakes the eggplant and so it passes the no slime test when done! :-)

Esme said...

The cover alone would make me want to have this recipe book-Lucky you having it in your kitchen.

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