Saturday, October 16, 2010

Adventures in a kitchenette

I got 100g of parmesan and a lemon at the Marche Saint-Germain-des-Pres today.

It's so hard to cook when you don't have a properly stocked kitchen. I knew this when I was in the dorms in Chicago, but there the big complaints where the lack of proper knives and, poor me, no blender! And the whole time I was only cooking when I desperately wanted to; I relied on the meal plan the rest of the time. Never was I faced with googling whether or not I could put a frying pan in the oven because I didn't have a baking sheet.

Put one eggplant in the oven (on the frying pan) and let it cook at 500F (Thats... 260C) for thirty minutes.

Cut up two red bell peppers so they'll lie flat when it's their turn.

My lemon is not particularly fragrant, so I'm rolling it out now to get the juices running. After a minute, it started to smell more like itself.

When the eggplant was done, I stuck a knife in it and let it spill its innards into a bowl. I've never cooked with eggplant before, so I was surprised at how completely the vegetable was transformed from a firm oval to a bag of gloop. Impressive!

I promptly threw the red peppers onto the frying pan and replaced it in the oven, albeit at a lower temperature. I set the oven to 180C, but after twenty minutes the red peppers did not seem to have cooked enough, so I turned it up to 220C. It's really hard cooking in Celsius right now; I haven't developed any sense of perspective on what's "hot" and what's "really hot." All I know is that 100C = 212F, and 260C=500F which is hot enough to make an eggplant swoon.

I squeezed the juice of one lemon into the bowl with the eggplant, along with a handful of parmesan (maybe 50g?) and a few pinches of the gros sel de Camargue that is mysteriously in the kitchenette, and is by far the nicest thing there. Upon taking a bite of the mysterious beige mush I've created, I regret a) putting the peppers in the oven, and b) only having one eggplant, because it really is delicious. Now I have to try not to eat it by spoonfuls, or run and smoosh it all over my baguette now, because there really isn't enough.

When the skin of the peppers is partly black, I throw them in a paper bag for a few minutes to steam. When the skin is easy to pull off, I strip them naked, cut them into little strips, and throw them into the eggplant mixture. It really needed the shot of color, but the two red peppers almost overwhelm my small and sadly diminished eggplant. Next time I will definitely use two. I love lemon, so I squeeze in the juice from the other half just to be sure. I have sadly overwhelmed the eggplant, and the whole lemon was a little two much, but it's certainly edible. A little sad that that's worth celebrating compared to all the blogs I've been reading with people making decadent, creative dishes with the finest of ingredients and tools, but everybody has to start somewhere!

Reflecting on the possibilities of this dish, it'd also be great with soft roasted/sweated/caramelized onions, and I know that holding out for the red peppers is going to be worth it. Other than the eggplant, though, none of this is too daring. Red peppers, onions, zucchini, and squash are my staple vegetables. I can put them in almost anything with complete confidence that the dish will not suffer for the addition.

I used one frying pan as my only baking dish for this, even though I didn't actually fry anything. What else can you do with a frying pan besides fry? This is a dinner or going hungry issue for me, folks, please advise!

[I'll add pictures later]

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