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Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Cooking as Travel

I can't travel nearly as much as I would like. I do have to eat every single day so I often use food and cooking as a vicarious means of seeing new places or revisiting old ones. The Mediterranean and the cultures that surround it have had a powerful influence on me throughout my adult life. The middle of the earth is what Mediterranean means in its Latin root. The Arabs call it the middle white sea. It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance this small body of water played in the lives of Western man. This recipe takes the best of Mediterranean cuisine and combines it in a single dish. How can you go wrong?


HEART OF THE MEDITERRANEAN PASTA


1 eggplant cut into 1/2 cubes
1 large bell pepper
2 pounds of tomatoes
2 cloves garlic (smashed)
10-12 kalamata olives (pitted and roughly chopped)
6-7 basil leaves
Small can of anchovy filets
2 tablespoons of capers
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine

Any thick pasta will work well in this dish: penne, radiatore, etc.
Grated parmesan or pecorino cheese.

Sprinkle eggplant with salt and let stand for about 20 minutes on a paper towel. Seed and peel tomatoes and bell pepper.

Heat oil in a large pot on med-high heat. Sauté garlic until light brown. Remove garlic from oil and discard. Add eggplant to pot until it begins to brown. Add tomatoes and white wine, reduce heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add pepper, basil, and capers and simmer. Finally add the olives and anchovies. Toss slightly undercooked pasta in the sauce and simmer briefly. Top with grated cheese.

To this day the aroma of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and white wine simmering in a pan reminds me of every kitchen window I have ever passed on the Mediterranean. This aroma is much more evocative than any photograph I have ever seen. I don't believe that a picture is always worth a thousand words but this aroma is worth ten thousand pictures. It covers an area from Gibraltar to the Bosporus, from Tel Aviv to Portofino. Have a nice trip. Bon Voyage! Buen Viaje.

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