Our excitement increased as we navigated our way through the traffic on the “Hutch”, over the “Whitestone” and down the “Van Wyck”. We were headed to JFK to pick up our friend Filippo. His dad had put him on the plane earlier in the day at Fiumicino Airport in Rome. And now we were standing in the International Arrivals area of JFK awaiting his arrival. As luck would have it, his plane arrived right on schedule and after the airline officials verified our identity, Edie, Filippo and I began the return trip to Connecticut.
Other than a wrong turn onto the Merritt Parkway instead of I – 684 and a terrible thunder and lightening storm, the trip home was uneventful. Of course, the visiting was nonstop. We talked about trying out new Italian recipes, some fun activities that would be an added plus to his visit with us and the most important part (to Filippo's mama), helping him with learning and understanding English. He of course would be helping us with our Italian.
We knew from previous trips that fishing was one of Filippo's favorite things to do.
And so, the first day of his American adventure began with a trip down the hill to the pond behind our home. With a little luck, he might land a good sized bass. But, more likely than not, it would be a strike by a Bluegill that would give him his thrill. The latter proved to be true. In talking with Filippo about his love for fishing, I asked him if he fished much at home in Tuscany. His reply was in the negative. I inquired as to why since he seemed to be enjoying himself so much. “It is easy” he said. “I have no pole and I have no pond”. Ah, the clarity of youthful thinking.
Our conversation turned to talk of food and what we should prepare for “la cena”. We settled on Torre di Melanzana.
After a little more fishing, we returned to the house and began to prepare dinner. We began by slicing eggplant, dicing tomatoes, whisking eggs. Then we put some seasoned breadcrumbs in a bowl, picked fresh basil from our garden and sliced fresh mozzarella. After frying the breadcrumb – egg encrusted eggplant slices, we constructed the “torre”. Our diner was delicious. (See recipe below)
Following dinner we played a rousing game of Scrabble. Since we wanted to learn each others language, we played using both Italian and English. We considered it a part of our language skills development program.
During the three weeks that Filippo was with us, we did a fair amount of cooking. Working together in the kitchen is a great way to learn about different languages. Our mutual interest in cooking gave us good reason to “go to market” quite often to pick-up ingredients for dinner. One day, he saw some nice lean pork chops.
These he thought would be very good for making Braciola di maiale alle erbe aromatiche or as we might call it, “herbal encrusted pork chops”. (The recipe is included below).
Well, needless to say we spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen. But we also took time to work on the English tutoring as well as a little “ R and R” for Filippo. We spent a couple of days at the Connecticut shore where in addition to time on the beach and in the water, Filippo quickly learned to play a fast-paced game of “chicken-foot” dominoes.
One evening, we took a night of cooking off and headed to see the New Britain Rock Cats. It was the first time Filippo had seen a baseball game. As luck would have it, the young man from Tuscany went home with a foul ball as a souvenir of the great American pastime. And, he got to meet Rocky, the teams official mascot.
We we also able to work in a bit of time at a horseshoe pit as well. After all what's more American than baseball and horseshoes?
It was a great three weeks...language skills (both Italian and English) were improved, new games were learned, sounds of laughter abounded, and great food was prepared and enjoyed.
We hope you enjoy the recipes below, Buon Appetito,
Dave and Edie
TORRE DI MELANZANE
Mozzarella, (mozzarella di bufala if possible)
Tomatoes (San Marzano if possible)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt / Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Peel and cut the eggplant into slices (about 1/3 inch thick). Slice the mozzarella into thin slices. Spread breadcrumbs on sheet of wax paper. Blend the eggs together. Dip the slices of eggplant into the eggs and then coat the eggplant with breadcrumbs.
Heat up the extra virgin olive oil and place the eggplant slices in the pan and fry until the slices are a light golden brown. Remove the eggplant from the pan and place on paper towels to let the drain excess oil.
Dice the tomatoes and cook in extra virgin olive oil, mixing and mashing to make a fresh sauce
Now it is time to build your tower. Place a slice of the eggplant on a cookie sheet. On top of the eggplant, place a slice of mozzarella. Repeat until you have three slices of eggplant and two slices of mozzarella. Repeat this process until you have made the number of towers you wish. Place the cookie sheet into your preheated oven (275 degrees) for 3 or 4 minutes to help soften the mozzarella.
Remove from the oven and plate the towers. Top with the fresh made tomato sauce and drizzle with some of the Balsamic reduction. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.
PORK CHOPS WITH HERBAL RUBBING
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Mince the garlic and herbs and add them to the olive oil and bread crumbs, mixing them together.
Rub the mixture into each side of the pork chops.
Finely chop the garlic with the herbs and add oil and bread crumbs.
Put the mixture by crushing the pork chop. Heat of bay and garlic with oil in a saucepan and cook the steak with the lid for about 5 minutes per side.