Friday, December 17, 2010

Multiple influences

The plus side to reading as much about food as I do is that you are always coming across new ideas, techniques, food combinations, etc., that spark your imagination.

The minus side is that all that stuff is really hard to keep track of and try out in any kind of systematic way.

In a recent attempt to jazz up some leftovers, I decided to take an Asian technique—stir frying meat and vegetables and serving them over rice—and adapt it to food with Italian flavors. In developing this idea, I think I was drawing on something I read in Mark Bittman, but I haven’t been able to track down a credible source, as well as a suggestion I’d come across more than once in one my favorite food blogs, Dinner with Julie: the skillet dinner. It’s cooking without a recipe, but with a framework for the basic components the finished dish should have: protein and vegetables, sautéed quickly on the stove, doused in a flavorful pan sauce, served over a compatible starch. You can start fresh with all raw ingredients, or use it to gussy up some leftovers.

Working from that premise, I did the following:

Stir fry/sauté
1. Put a large skillet to heat on the stove with a couple tablespoons of olive oil poured in.
2. Chopped several small eggplant I had in the fridge, waiting to be used.
3. Put the eggplant into the skillet to sauté, stirring frequently.
4. Minced a clove of garlic and tossed it in after the eggplant had been cooking for about 5 minutes.
5. Chopped a couple of cooked Italian sausages also lurking in the fridge, and threw them in when the eggplant was starting to get noticeably soft.
6. Poured about ½ cup of white wine into the pan after another 3-5 minutes, when the sausage was close to being heated through, and used the bubbling liquid to scrape off and good stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan.
7. Did the same with the same amount of stock.
8. Poured in a couble tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and stirred to mix thoroughly.
9. Seasoned with salt & pepper to taste, then served topped with chopped scallions and crumbled feta cheese, on a bed of:

I made this the same way I always make rice; the only difference was that, in keeping with the Italian theme, I used Arborio rice (the kind you use to make risotto). But I didn’t do all the stirring that risotto requires; I just left it to bubble away like plain old long grain white rice.

As an experiment, this was surprisingly successful; I liked it way more than I expected to, and it didn’t remind me at all of a stir fry, which I had somewhat thought it would, and dreaded as a completely unappetizing association with Italian flavors.

I just wish I could remember who to thank for the inspiration.


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