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Tasty Morsels: For a great tasting treat, just think purple

By: Susie Iventosch, courtesy to Home & Garden
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Having just returned from a visit to my younger brother who is a priest in Corsica (the Mediterranean island where Napoleon Bonaparte was born), I was a little stumped on what great recipe to bring to readers this week. We enjoyed plenty of good food at the priory — the brothers have an excellent French chef who refuses to be complimented, and a neighbor who raises beautiful baby lettuces and juicy tomatoes. But, still, nothing was shouting out, “Write about me,” until we arrived in Italy and sampled the pappardelle pasta with fresh porcini mushrooms. This dish was divine and one waiter told me the reason is because this is porcini season and the mushrooms are fresh, not dried. Upon returning home, I hurried down to Newcastle Produce to inquire about fresh porcini mushrooms. Owner Jan Thompson informed me that in California porcini season is June and July, so unfortunately, that recipe will have to hold until next spring! Sorry. Luckily, I was reminded of the Loomis Eggplant Festival, which took place on Saturday. I love eggplant and after reading about so many wonderful eggplant dishes that were served at the festival, I was inspired to dig into the recipe file for some favorite eggplant dishes. The interesting thing I discovered is that the second recipe (eggplant crostini) makes a wonderful topping for the first (eggplant pancakes). In any case, a little fresh-grated Pecorino Romano cheese is perfect on both! Eggplant Pancakes (Makes 10-12 three-inch diameter pancakes for side dish) 1 large eggplant 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped 1 cup flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs 2 eggs ¼ cup milk 2-3 tablespoons oil for cooking pancakes Pecorino Romano cheese shavings for garnish Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rub whole eggplant with olive oil and roast in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until eggplant is soft. Remove eggplant from oven and cool to the touch. Scoop out pulp and place in bowl. Meanwhile, mix onion, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and Italian herbs in a medium bowl. Add egg and mix well. Then stir in milk. Finally add eggplant pulp. Season with Italian herbs and salt and pepper. Heat 1-2 tablespoons oil to medium high in large skillet. Drop batter by large spoonful or ladle into pan and cook until one side is golden brown. Flip pancake and repeat with other side. Serve with Pecorino Romano grated cheese on top. Also, the eggplant mixture from the recipe below makes a wonderful topping for the pancakes. Eggplant Crostini (Makes 15-20 crostini for hors d’oeuvres) Ingredients 1 eggplant 1 yellow bell pepper 1 red bell pepper 1-2 cloves garlic, minced 1 yellow onion, finely chopped ½ cup mushrooms, chopped 2 medium tomatoes, chopped ½ teaspoon dried oregano (1 tablespoon fresh) ½ teaspoon dried thyme (1 tablespoon fresh) Salt and pepper to taste 1 loaf of French bread, sliced to ¼ inch. ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil Directions Rub eggplant and peppers with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Roast in 450-degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Chop bell peppers and scoop out eggplant pulp. Set both aside. In a medium saucepan, sauté garlic, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, herbs and salt and pepper over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add mashed eggplant and peppers to onion mixture. Mix well. Brush thin slices of French bread (crostini) with olive oil and toast in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes, until hot, but not too crunchy. Spread eggplant mixture on each crostini and sprinkle with fresh-grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese. Susie can be reached at suziven@gmail.com