A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dream about Marcella Hazan, the cooking teacher and writer who died last week at age 89.
Throughout that summer morning, she was on my mind and I finally decided to tell her I'd been thinking about her.
It was easy to do, as Hazan was both Internet- and Facebook-savvy. She often weighed in on conversations about food — one time to tell me she never recommended scaling salmon, as the scales add flavor — and seemed to check Facebook frequently. She had nearly 5,000 friends.
She responded to my post, in which I asked how she was doing, by telling me, in the same sort of matter-of-fact manner with which she wrote her recipes, what it was like to age.
She didn't complain at all, merely described just what was going on with her. She tired easily, she said, but still enjoyed both cooking and eating.
I was lucky to have met her and her beloved husband, Victor Hazan — theirs was a true love story — a few times, including once when I interviewed them together at Robert Mondavi Winery, where she was teaching a class. Yet I know her best, as most of us do, through her extraordinary books: cookbooks like "The Classic Italian Cookbook" (Knopf, 1983) that brought true Italian cooking into our kitchens, our homes and our lives.
She was and remains a treasure, a guiding light who takes us by the hand and shows us the joys of simple, real food, cooked with love and wisdom.
I've chosen today's recipes from "Marcella's Italian Kitchen" (Knopf, 1986) in honor of the fabulous eggplant in our farmers markets right now.
Eggplant is something I've never had an intuitive relationship with, and Hazan's recipes are always a source of delicious inspiration.
Be sure to read the recipe all the way through before beginning.
It is not difficult, but you need to be certain that you have the right containers.
<strong>Marcella Hazan's Pickled Raw Eggplant</strong>
<em>Makes 1 quart</em>
2 1/2 pounds long, thin eggplant, washed and stemmed
5 or 6 small hot peppers (about 2 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick), washed and stemmed
2 dozen fresh mint leaves, wiped clean
1 quart pickling jar with a large opening
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and minced
— Kosher salt
1 tall jar or glass that will fit snugly inside the pickling jar
1 stone or other weight, such as a small, heavy lid
1 cup red wine vinegar
— Extra virgin olive oil
Cut each eggplant into 3-inch pieces. Slice the pieces lengthwise as thinly as possible.
Cut the peppers into 1-inch pieces.
Put a layer of eggplant slices over the bottom of the jar, add 1 or 2 pieces of pepper, 2 mint leaves and a bit of garlic. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat until you have used all the eggplant.
Every now and then, use the tall jar or glass to press down on the layers.
Press the tall jar into the pickling jar and invert both jars into a bowl. Set the weight on top of the pickling jar, so that it is pressing down on the other glass.