When I happily show my membership card at Costco and make my way past the huge televisions, I immediately feel like the list in my pocket is useless. Each aisle calls my name and I find myself wandering aimlessly with too many items in my cart that weren't on the list. I came home last week with two huge tubs that were meant for holding iced beer during a party. I'd been searching for one for the deck to also catch water for the tomatoes that have miraculously sprouted.
But why two? My husband made me give it to my sister.
This loss of senses happens to me when I shop for clothes as well. For those of you who have ever attempted to shop with me, you'll know that I prefer to be alone. Rushing is simply forbidden. When I enter a store like Topshop, I feel dizzy. I'm immediately drawn to millions of handbags and the area where girls half my age are trying on plastic sunglasses. I pass the same knit-wear section countless times before finally heading to the shoe department.
I've learned to take a deep breath, take the list out of my pocket, and work the store in sections. If not, multiple hours pass before I finally head out into daylight, confused and unaware of how to get home.
This recipe is one I reminded myself of when the weather was still chilly and I was hoping for a week like this- beautiful, no rain and above 80 degrees. Summer is officially in the air. It just so happens that I rarely cook with aubergines (or eggplants). They're so smooth and gorgeously purple, but until now, I never really knew how make them tasty.
Honestly, I've never liked them, but this recipe is one very large exception. I find that the eggplant has to be paired with some serious flavor to make it interesting. When stuffed with feta and spiked with my dear friend, the red chilli, I gave it a second glance.
Thinking back now, I do remember a delicious eggplant parmesan dish at the gourmet deli I worked at in college. The woman who owned it also made a fantastic Baba ghanoush dip. The cumin and garlic hit the back of your mouth with a punch. In fact, this recipe is similar to something else I recall tasting there, although it was done with courgettes (or zucchini). I love that I just referenced two vegetables that have different names here and in the UK. The conundrum used to add so much time in the kitchen when I first moved to London. All that converting and weird names were enough to put anyone off their first set of pots and pans from Ikea.
Before sharing, I must point out that the book this is from is Forever Summer, by Nigella Lawson. Like all of her books, I fall in love with the way this woman makes everything look simple and the way she enjoys her food, family and friends. I particularly remember an episode from the TV series that went with this book when she was at the English seaside. The coast of England holds so many special memories for me. I remember the first summer my husband and his parents took me to Blackpool. It was tacky but wonderful and I ate the best mushy peas I've ever had.
Cornwall, in particular, St. Mawes, is an area that would honestly compete with the Dordogne when thoughts of retirement enter my far off dreams. I got engaged in St. Mawes and spent 3 summer holidays returning with my husband and dog to hike, play in the surf, eat fish & chips, Cornish pasties and drink Tribute Ale. This was the view from one of the cottages we rented.
If you read Nigella's book, you will come closer to understanding what a lovely British summer can taste like. Bulgar wheat salad with pink lamb, Golden Jubilee chicken salad, trifle and my all-time favorite fish curry with spicy tamarind are all in this book.
Griddled Aubergines with Feta, Mint and Chilli
Adapted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson
2 large aubergines, each cut thinly, lengthwise into about 10 slices
4 tbsp olive oil
8 oz. feta cheese
1 red chilli, finely chopped and deseeded
large bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped with some saved to sprinkle over
juice of 1 lemon
Even if I'm having a barbecue, I don't like to cook these over coals. They get a little flimsy, so I prefer to use a grill pan. Preheat over high heat.
Brush both sides of each slice with the oil and cook for 2 minutes each side until golden and tender. I use a spatula to flatten the slices against the grill to ensure they are marked.
Crumble the feta into a bowl and stir in the chilli, mint, lemon juice and black pepper. No salt is needed because the feta is salty enough.
Pile the end of each warm aubergine slice with a heaped teaspoon of the feta mixture then roll each slice up. Lay with the end side down and sprinkle with more mint.
I like to serve this when guests arrive before a barbecue with a cold beer to wash down the saltiness of the feta and the heat of the chilli.
I'm heading to my home town of Indianapolis this weekend to watch very loud cars race around in a circle. I can't believe I've never been to the Indy 500, and although it's not how I would typically spend a weekend, I'm looking forward to the experience, most of which will include a home-made picnic lunch I've been planning for us to take along.
Enjoy the long weekend!