A recipe of sorts: Eggplant Parmesan
Peel the eggplant you impulsively bought while shopping hungry. Begin to create something wonderful that is inspired by a whim and an empty belly. Slice the eggplant thin, but not too thin. Cooking is learning balance. When enough is enough and too much is too much. A good parmesan has the right breading to inside ratio. Cover the eggplant slices in salt which pulls out the bitter flavor leaving behind something worth eating. Let the process pull from you the stress and exhaustion of the past few weeks. Enjoy being productive without the inhibitions of requirements. Set the eggplant aside. The salt needs time to do its job.
Begin heating a metal pot on a back burner on the stove, and add a chunk of butter. Dice an onion, and add it to the metal pot. Smell home. Pan-frying onion is the smell of dad cooking in the kitchen with the dog underfoot, mom grading schoolwork, and little boys running and laughing. You may be far from this home, but it’s here in the sizzle of onion bits and the sharp scent that tickles your nose and makes your mouth water. Peel away the skin from a few cloves of garlic. Chop the garlic very fine so that its flavor will spread through the sauce. The quality of what you put in matters. It is worth the extra time and smelly fingers to use fresh garlic even if you don’t do everything from scratch. Wait to put the garlic in. Garlic cooks much faster than onions and should not be added until the onions are translucent and not quite golden. A little bit of patience can make all the difference in the end. Burnt garlic just isn’t the same. After you add the garlic, stir the mixture occasionally. Attend to the little things in life. The garlic, the cashier, the homeless guy you pass every day. These small actions can have greater impacts than you would expect.
Open a can of diced tomatoes and add it to the fragrant golden mixture of onions and garlic. Stir and let it simmer. Dust the top with salt, oregano, basil and rosemary. Add two cans of tomato puree and turn up the heat. Turn the music up too. This is when the dance begins. Whisk three eggs and a splash of milk in a bowl. In another bowl, mix almond flour, salt, oregano, basil and rosemary. Rinse and drain the eggplant. Allow your to-do list to be cleared from your mind. Place a large pan on the front burner nearest the counter. Put the almond flour bowl right next to the pan. Put the egg mix next and the eggplant last (the furthest away from the stove). Put a piece of parchment paper and a spatula nearby. Order is important. Oftentimes there’s a very good reason for it. Add oil to the pan and allow it to heat up. Cooking is a balancing act based on intuition. Don’t forget to stir the sauce.
Roll up your sleeves. Your head and fancy utensils are not sufficient; this requires your hands and your heart. Stand in front of the bowls with your feet slightly apart. Note which hand is in front of which bowl. By all means, don’t mix them up. In doing so, you would introduce chaos and clumpy batter to the universe. With the “egg” hand, pick up a piece of eggplant. Submerge it in the egg mixture and pull it out. Allow it to hover over the bowl so that the extra goo can end up back in the bowl and not on the counter or in the flour mix. Gently place the slice in the flour bowl without contaminating the egg hand with flour. Use the “flour” hand to lightly coat the slice of eggplant. Pull the slice out and put it on the parchment paper. Repeat until you have piles of battered eggplant, and you remember that your oil is hot. Wash your hands. Fill the pan with battered slices. Stir your sauce. If you are alone in the kitchen, you have to learn to use both hands. To put in both your strongest and your weakest. If you have children, by all means, call them in to be the batterer and the egg dipper.
As you keep half an eye on the frying eggplant, begin again with the dipping and battering. When you can hear and smell the need for flipping, wash your “egg” hand. Reach over and flip the eggplant slices and then continue dipping. The egg hand. The side of you that is easily cleaned, easily used, and under control. The flour hand, though. Clumpy, sticky, uncomfortable and essential to the process. Check the sauce. Remove the slices that are finished. As you continue dipping, washing, frying and stirring, find a rhythm. Sing the chorus of the song playing. Learn the nuances of your pan. Some spots are hotter than others. Decide what needs that heat and adjust accordingly. Add mushrooms to the tomato sauce. It may not be the usual, but why not? Add enough for taste without overpowering the tomato chunks. Season moderation with a dash of boldness.
When you run out of eggplant slices to dip and batter, begin to clean up. Discipline early on makes the whole night better. Stir the sauce. Flip the frying slices. As you remove the last of the eggplant parmesan, turn off the stove. Scour the pans and bowls and utensils you are done with. Place eggplant parmesan on a plate. Add sauce liberally. Continue to enjoy.