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Eggplant and Potato Crostata

My friend Lilli made this beautiful concoction recently, when the Italian chit-chat group convened at my house a few weeks ago. We generally serve both savory and sweet things at our weekly gatherings, and Lilli helped me by preparing this delicious eggplant and potato crostata. Lilli, who hails from Salerno, is one of my dearest friends, and a sensational cook. This recipe however, is from Giallo Zafferano, an Italian site that features so many wonderful recipes, but they’re all in Italian. I’ve translated the amounts from metric, for those of you in the U.S.  It would make a great appetizer if you’re having company, or even a main course, with a salad on the side. I hope you try it.

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Eggplant and Potato Crostata
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • one pastry shell, ready made or homemade
  • 1½ cups (400 grams)potatoes
  • 1¾ cups (350 grams) eggplant
  • 1 cup (100 grams) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (200 grams) Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper,
  • one egg yolk (for brushing on top)
Instructions
  1. Slice the eggplants (not too thinly), and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Let them rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Rinse and dry the eggplants with paper towels, then cut in half.
  4. Fry the eggplant in oil, draining well on paper towels.
  5. Wash the potatoes well, and boil them for about 20 minutes, with their skins on.
  6. Test for doneness, and when they can be easily pierced with a fork, remove from the water and let them cool, then peel them.
  7. Chop the potatoes roughly.
  8. Cut the mozzarella into small pieces.
  9. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.
  10. To the eggs add the potatoes, the mozzarella and the eggplant.
  11. Line a tart pan with the pastry, letting some hang over the edge.
  12. Fill the tart pan evenly with the eggplant and potato filling.
  13. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling and brush with beaten egg yolk.
  14. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
  15. Serve hot or at room temperature.
 

Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes

It’s a conspiracy. I’ll never get rid of those extra pounds from the holiday. Cookies, cakes, ice creams, chocolates, rich roasts, luscious cheeses and fish feasts were all part of our Christmas holiday eating.
Newsflash: the holidays were extended this year. Hanukkah was moved to January.

Well, not really, but we were invited to a post-Hanukkah party by friends who normally host this gathering in December. The hostess made these addictive latkes as appetizers, which we devoured — prosecco in hand. She also prepared an intensely flavorful brisket as the main course, while the guests filled out the menu with side dishes of eggplant rollatini, roasted artichoke hearts, spinach with pine nuts and raisins, fennel gratinee and an avocado and pomegranate salad. Not full yet? Let’s hope not, because dessert included an apple galette, pound cake, rugelach, fresh fruit salad and a buche de noel.

It’s not really a conspiracy. It’s my good fortune to be included in the festivities by these gracious hosts and to share a fabulous meal with some of the nicest people and the best cooks I know.

Still, now you know why I left early for the gym this morning.

Here is my friend’s recipe for the latkes, inspired by a recipe from Gloria Kausergreen’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook.

Potato Latkes

makes about 20 latkes

3 large russet potatoes, about 2.5 pounds
1 lemon
2 extra large eggs
1 tsp. salt
2 T. flour
1 large onion
sour cream
caviar (my friend used Romanoff black caviar)
vegetable oil for frying

Peel potatoes and cut in halves or thirds. Soak in a bowl of cold water mixed with a little lemon juice to keep the potatoes from discoloring.
Peel onion, cut into chunks and add to the bowl with the potatoes.
In another large bowl, beat the eggs, flour and salt with a whisk, making sure the flour is fully blended with the egg.
Using the medium grating disk of a food processor, remove some of the potatoes from the bowl and begin to grate. Do not use the fine grating disk. The potatoes should look like strings when they come out of the food processor, so that when they are fried the latkes will look lacy.
Next take some onion and grate using the same disk. Alternate grating potatoes and onions, repeating the process in several batches.
After each batch is grated, put the potatoes and onions into a colander to drain off some of the liquid.
After all the potatoes and onions are grated and in the colander, take your hand and squeeze out handfuls, draining off the liquid.
Place the drained potatoes and onions into the bowl with the egg and flour mixture. Stir with your hands until the potatoes and onions are well integrated with the egg mixture.
Using your hands, pick up a fistful of the potato and onion mixture and squeeze forcefully into a ball, draining out as much liquid as possible.
In a heavy skillet, heat the vegetable oil to high, then lower the heat to medium or medium high, as needed.
Press the latkes into a flat, oval shape and fry in the oil, pressing down with a spatula to flatten even further.
Turn over and fry on the other side, until the latkes are crispy all over. Add more oil as needed. Drain on paper towels, and serve with a dollop of sour cream and black caviar.

Gatto’ Di Patate

Gatto’ di Patate

So many of my friends are good cooks, including Lilli, who originally hails from Salerno, about 30 miles south of Naples. She made the potato cake in the photo and gave it to me shortly before dinner tonight.
Boy, was I lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It’s the ultimate comfort food all’Italiana. Think of mashed potatoes all dressed up and ready to show off. It’s also a terrific party food too, to make ahead and bake later.
There are as many variations of this recipe as there are varieties of pizza. Some recipes call for adding bits of salami, some for ham, and some for both — but you can omit the meat entirely if you like. You can also add provolone cheese in addition to the mozzarella, or pecorino instead of parmigiana. Like so many Italian cooks I know, Lilli keeps a lot recipes in her head, including this one. She did, however, spell out the basic ingredients, and I have approximated proportions in the recipe that follows.
The gatto’ (accent on the second syllable) is a traditional Neapolitan recipe that takes its name from the French “gateau” or cake. If you make the mistake of accenting the first syllable, you’ve got yourself a potato cat, not a potato cake.

serves 6
2 lb. potatoes
1 egg
4 T. butter, plus more to grease the dish
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, diced
1 cup cooked ham or salami, diced
2 T. Italian parsley, chopped
pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup milk, or more as needed to keep the mixture from getting too hard
salt and pepper

bread crumbs
2 T. butter

Boil potatoes until tender and drain. Place the 4 T. butter into a bowl. Peel the potatoes and pass through a “ricer” or mash by hand directly into the bowl over the butter, so that the hot potatoes melt the butter. Cool for five minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients except the bread crumbs and the 2 T. butter. Mix it all together until blended. Grease the bottom of a pie plate or other oven-proof dish with butter and smooth the mixture into the container. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and gently press down with a fork. Dab with bits of butter. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes.