Tuesday, September 18, 2007

One More for the End of Summer

Years ago, we spent a year in rural Northern California. I was quite miserable there, for a variety of reasons, but a saving grace was the garden. California gardens and Oregon gardens are wildly different. Summer treasures that we coax along gently here in the Northwest grow like crazy down there. We had piles of peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes the likes of which I'd never be able to manage here in Portland. It wasn't just the climate, though that surely helped. The year we lived in California I had a toddler and a newborn and wasn't working, which is to say that I didn't have a paid job. We were miles from anywhere so we either went to town for the whole day or stayed put. Most often we stayed put. I had all the time in the world (in between constant nursing and diaper changes) to work in the garden and prepare meals. It was wonderful to be able to grow so much of our own food back then, but I never really adjusted to the garden's prolific output.

I found a recipe that made good use of all the tomatoes and eggplant: Midi Poche. The Bert Greene cookbook from which the recipe came years ago has mysteriously disappeared so I'm not even sure if I'm entirely faithful to the original but even in its evolution it's become a late summer requirement around here. Sadly, my own eggplants were tiny, woody specimens so the farmers market had to provide for us. The tomatoes, however, were my own.Midi Poche is an eggplant and rice casserole with Provencal flavors. The sauce is what makes the dish really distinctive: bright tomato flavors mix with a hint of allspice to make an unusual (and very tasty) sauce. It will take some time to make as the eggplant needs to be salted, drained and sauteed before layering with the rice and the sauce, but the baking time is short and it's truly worth the effort. Go out and grab a few eggplant while they're still around and give this dish a try. The recipe is here. Oh, and I redecorated a bit. I was hoping to make the text easier to read. Any better?

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