consumed on 7/21/05

The latest Cooking Club was hosted by Culinary Fool and she chose the theme “Tapas to Meze”. She had recently purchased a book called From Tapas to Meze: Small Plates from the Mediterranean by Joanne Weir and thought it would be a fun theme—the idea being to leisurely graze over a meal consisting of small plates.

Normally we divide up the dinner so that someone does appetizers, someone brings salad, someone makes the main course, etc., but this time everyone was assigned a region from the Mediterranean. I was in charge of the Levant. I had also bought a copy of From Tapas to Meze, so I was leafing through my section when I came across a recipe titled “Baked Stuffed Eggplant to Make a Priest Faint”. How could I not make this dish?

Here’s what we ended up with:

Spain: Gazpacho
A pureed tomato soup with all the fixin’s: beautiful croutons, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, onions and peppers.

North Africa: Bisteeya
A typical Moroccan appetizer that consists of ground chicken (or more traditionally, pigeon) stuffed inside a pocket of phyllo dough and topped with powdered sugar. Very unusual and very tasty.

The Levant: Baked Stuffed Eggplant to Make a Priest Faint
My eggplant dish was stuffed with onions, tomatoes, currents and lots of “dessert” spices like allspice and cinnamon. My only complaint was that it seemed a touch undercooked and just a bit sweet (honey was called for, but I would omit this next time). Considering this was a completely vegetarian dish, it was pretty damn good.

Italy: Homemade Mozzarella with Basil and Tomatoes
The homemade mozzarella didn’t turn out quite how M wanted it to, but she planned ahead and had also bought some absolutely gorgeous goat cheese mozzarella from a farmers’ market. It was layered with perfectly ripe tomatoes and fresh, tender basil.

Southern France: Gnocchi with Roquefort Cream
This dish absolutely blew me away. Growing up Italian (or at least 1/4 Italian), we always made the Christmas gnocchi with potatoes. Apparently, in France, it’s made from milk, butter, flour and eggs—like a cream puff dough. The result was impossibly light and airy gnocchi, smothered in rich, salty and pungent Roquefort cream. I can’t wait to try this dish out on my mom!