La Parmigiana

Better known in the United States as ‘eggplant parmesan’, la parmigiana is one of my specialties. Una mamma calabrese in Lamezia Terme, Italy taught me to make this quintessential summertime dish. It takes some time and patience to cook, but for me there is nothing more delicious on a summer evening.

I grew up eating heavy, cheesy eggplant parmesan that had tons of seeds and tasted bitter. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t a fan. This version is completely different. The eggplant isn’t breaded. There is no ricotta or mozzarella cheese. Less is more.

You start by slicing some eggplants (maybe 5 or 6 smallish slender guys) and salting them. Salting eggplant draws out its bitter water and makes it creamier.  After about thirty minutes, rinse the eggplants and squeeze the water out. Dry them if you like. 

While the eggplants are salting, make some tomato sauce. Keep it simple. Saute a small chopped onion in some extra virgin olive oil. Add a can or two of diced or whole tomatoes, along with some passata or tomato puree. Pinch of sugar, S&P. Fresh basil if you have it!

Now here comes the tedious part. The frying. (You can grill them too, which I have never tried. But it’s lower in fat that way, if that’s what you’re into.) Fry those little babies up! Use extra virgin olive oil; you’ll use a lot of it. Get them golden-brown or darker on each side and put them aside on a kitchen towel to drain the oil. 

Then you just layer. Put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish so the eggplants don’t burn on. Then it’s just eggplant, sauce and parmesan cheese layered until you run out. Use as much parm as you like, but don’t go overboard. This is an eggplant dish, despite its name.

Stick that into the oven until it starts bubbling. Your nose will probably tell you when it’s ready. 

And enjoy! This is best served with other simple accompaniments such as a green salad or just fettunta, toasted bread with garlic rubbed on, a la Parvez. 

Photo by Andrea Tormaschy

But even better is serving this with friends! Buon appetito!

Photo by Andrea Tormaschy

H to the Izzo

For the past few months I have been preoccupied with the bothersome knowledge that everyday billions of people are without clean water. I feel a wave of guilt every time I wash the dishes or take a shower. So, I decided to do a little research about the conditions and the solutions. Honestly, this seems like a solvable problem; digging wells can’t be all that difficult. (Obviously I’m sure there are external hurdles…) After all, we can dig for fossil fuels miles beneath the sea, surely we can dig a bunch of wells to quench the thirst of our fellow man.

I made a presentation about my research. I think one of the photos got a little wonky, because I have been back and forth between computers. Check out the sites at the end; there are some great organizations doing good things for those in need!

My Master Plan

As I have previously mentioned, this blog is being created in conjunction with the Master’s program I am participating in. So every now and then I’ll divert a little bit from only speaking about food and water and discuss other topics related to development. After all, I haven’t officially decided what the topic of my thesis will be.

Ultimately, I do hope to do the bulk of my research in India. I have been gathering resources about the country and various topics relating to its rapid growth, culture and history. Once I narrow down my topic and the region of my studies, I hope to spend a few months getting a first-hand understanding of the issues I have been studying from afar.

Here are some resources that I have found during my research which I think will be useful.

Don’t forget to pour one out for the troops!

I wish they were home eating burgers with their families instead…

Happy Labor Day!

Are we in denial?

While I was mulling over the topics I could include in this blog, I serendipitously came across a few articles that deal with food and some corresponding social issues. I clicked on this link when I was checking my firm’s Yahoo email and read an article that deals with the obesity rates in America and the way Americans see themselves.

It’s no secret that Americans love to eat. We are fortunate to live in a country with fertile land that nourishes our people. But we consume an animal-centric diet and have a tendency to eat things that come in just-add-water forms or take-out containers. We lead a more sedentary lifestyle than ever thanks to the ubiquity of cars as the main means of transportation in rural areas. These and other factors have led to high rates of obesity in children and adults. Further, obesity can lead to health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.

For me, the article by Gardner also brings up some interesting psychological issues that go along with the increasing rates of overweight and obesity in America. People don’t seem to understand what a normal weight for a person should be. Has overweight become the new norm in suburban or rural America? By what standards are we measuring ourselves? Perhaps we, as a society, know there is a problem with the way we treat our bodies, but we are afraid to make the necessary changes. In so doing, we choose to live in a state of denial of our bodies and ourselves.

Then again, maybe we just love buffalo wings too much!

One of my mottos is ‘everything in moderation’. (When convenient, I add: ‘including moderation itself’…) I grew up in suburban America and appreciate a bacon burger as much as the next. But we sacrifice our well-being if we succumb to the convenience of mass-produced, pre-made food. That being said, I am going to walk to the store and buy some vegetables!

Here we go…

Photo by Sean Tuccillo

This here is my grand foray into the blogosphere!

I am a graduate student at St. John’s University, studying Global Development and Social Justice. For our final assignment for my Information Resources class, our professor is having us create a blog, the central theme of which is development.

Now, I have had a secret desire for quite some time to have a recipe blog. Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies and I enjoy reading others’ food blogs. I figured that this assignment would be a great way to create my own little cookbook on the Internet while at the same time addressing development issues. But how to relate the two?

Food is a basic human need. Yet it has also become a political issue and a commodity. It’s been genetically modified, subsidized and turned into powder. There are people who don’t have access to nearly enough of it and there are people who eat way too much. In this blog, I hope to bring together resources that address the social, political and economic implications surrounding food, while also posting some of my favorite healthy recipes.