A small timballo of aubergines for this first October weekend

   Hello, a nice weekend to you all! October was announced this morning by good weather and mild temperatures. On this occasion, I would like to introduce a recipe that my mother taught me when I was a child; indeed, it comes from my culinary memories at Summer holidays, best time for learning how to cook! So, today, the recipe to dedicate to the first weekend of the new month will be a small ‘timballo’ made with aubergines.

   Looking back very briefly at history and at the long tradition of this amazing vegetable, which has its origins in India and perhaps is 4000 years old, ancient docs attest its arrival in Italy during the Middle Age, but it is only in the 17th century, through the great work of spreading and promotion of the religious Carmelite Order that the aubergine is finally appreciated in Southern Italy at first and then all over Europe. From then on, the aubergine has come one of the main ingredients of the Italian cuisine. During the WWII, it is common among shepherds and peasants to use even the leaves of the aubergines, by drying them in the sun for making cigarettes and sigars to smoke instead of tobacco, since this latter was not available by that time of history.

   Back to our recipe, dice an oval black skinned aubergine in small cubes (please, do not peel it, since its skin has relevant healthy benefits for pancreas and guts, whereas the pulp is rich in fibers, potassium, phosphor and calcium, vitamin A and C). Then, in a large pan on the stove (medium temperature), pour some extravirgin olive oil and let it to get warm. As soon as the oil starts lightly hissing, add chopped onion, scallion, a tiny idea of garlic, three or four cherry tomatoes, a couple of pieces of lemongrass and mix all together. In the end, add the diced aubergine and keep on cooking all ingredients together. Pour little white wine and a sprinkle of thyme, majoram, bay, hot pepper. Since the aubergine has a spongy pulp, I would suggest to add more extravergin olive oil in case the aubergine seems too dry. Any way, by adding a sprinkle of salt, the aubergine will release some water since this vegetable is made 90% of water. Keep on cooking until it becomes smooth and almost creamy. Then, out of the stove, pour the mixture in a bowl and leave it for some minutes to get cooler. Add one egg, grated parmigiano, some breadcrumb to make the mixture thicker, parsley and small pieces of speck from Alto Adige  (the fragrance of it will be particularly tasteful with the aubergine).

   Next step is to grease a terracotta mould for timballo with few drops of extravirgin olive oil and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs. Pour the mixture in it and bake for about 15 mins (moderate temperature, about 200° C) until the surface becomes golden and crispy.

    Serve it warm, perhaps with some julienne vegetables, or, even better, add a couple of spoons of warm tomato sauce, it will taste delicious!

Buon Appetito 

The days of the female blackbird and a genuine millet soup for children and grown-ups

February is already here and, unexpectedly, this year the last three days of January, which by tradition are cold and most often snowy, were pretty mild. Indeed, this first timid attempt of Springtime is now visible in our countryside, since the branches of almond trees are in bloom. In Italy, the last three days of January are called the ‘days of the female blackbird'(i giorni della merla) to remember a poor female blackbird and an old legend that tells us about its adventure to find a safe warm shelter by a chimneypot, where, inevitably, its feathers became dark for the smoke.

   Anyway, it’s still winter season and with a cold weather our body needs more energy to feel healthy and light. This is the reason why today I would like to suggest a smooth tasteful soup made with decorticated millet and artichokes, which is ideal for children and for grown-ups. The millet (panicum miliaceum) is one of the cereals at the base of nutrition for several populations in Asia and Africa. The origin of the millet are found back to the Neolithic and then, again, its use spread during the Middle Age in India, China and Europe. Nowadays, even though the millet has a high nutritional value, it is not very much used in Europe for reasons bound to the production and difficulties for the harvest. On the contrary, India, China, Russia, Ukraine, Africa are the main consumers of this cereal so rich in vitamin A and B, iron, magnesium and silicon.

   Back to this easy recipe, at the food market I have found excellent local artichokes and winter tomatoes. The fragrance of these latter was a sweet epiphany of childhood: a delicious morning snack at school, made of bread, yellow tomatoes, a sprinkle of salt and extravirgin olive oil to share with the best friend. Once, these tomatoes were in every house, like intertwined gems, hanging on the wall of the storeroom. At home, I started frying gently rings of red onions, tomatoes, a hint of garlic and chopped artichokes. After pouring some white wine (choose the one you prefer) and let it to evaporate, I added some vegetable bouillon and kept on cooking for about 15 min (do not forget to add a sprinkle of chily pepper and salt). In the end, I worked the artichokes with a minipimer and made a smooth cream. As second step, the millet was cooked in some vegetable bouillon for about 15/20 min (a full espresso coffee cup or a cup and a half should represents the right portion for a person). Then, I added the golden grains of millet to the artichoke cream, a couple of spoons of bouillon and served the soup with some bread. Children and grown-ups would love it.

   Wish you all ‘buon appetito’!