This recipe came about because of a wine I had just acquired. I belong to a wine club (Leithwaite’s Wine) and they had sent me a Greek wine, but made in Lodi, California, no less. It’s a Koroni Cabernet Sauvignon 2018. This gorgeous wine is produced by the Koroni family, who emigrated from Greece to Canada in 1959, and thence to California in 1966. And they brought with them four generations of wine making expertise from Koroni, their hometown in Greece.
The wine is everything I admire in classic Cabernets: deep-colored with rich current and black cherry flavors. Naturally, I had to pair it with Greek cuisine, which I love. What came to mind was Melitzanes Yemistes, or Stuffed Eggplant. This is no ordinary stuffed eggplant. Along with tomatoes, and onion, it contains olives, anchovy fillets and cinnamon. As an accompaniment, I included rice with fides noodles, Pilafi me Fides. Back in Spanish Harlem, my mother would cook with fideos, fine noodles that she added to soups. I was pleasantly surprised that in Hellenic cuisine, fideos can be added to rice. It gives the grain a unique crunchy structure.
Oh, yes, the above make a great vegetarian dinner
So, for a treat tonight, cook this glorious meal and imagine you’re in Athens or Crete, or Mykonos, or Santorini. And if you can’t find a Koroni, any good quality wine with do, or even beer. The quest is to enjoy the meal—and you will.
2 medium eggplants (about ¼ to ½ pound each)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 pound tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 2-inch stick cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
12 black olives
8 anchovy fillets
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Remove stems and caps from the eggplants
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan or skillet, add the eggplants and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan. Cut in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out the pulp, leaving a thin shell. Chop the eggplant pulp coarsely.
- Heat the butter in the same pan or skillet. Add onions and cook until golden. Add the tomatoes and eggplant pulp and cook for 10 minutes.
- Crush the garlic cloves with the salt. Add to the tomato mixture, along with the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, pepper, parsley, and cook for 10 minutes more.
- Fill the eggplant shells with this mixture. Garnish each shell with 3 olives and 2 anchovy fillets. Bake for 10 minutes and serve with rice with fides (recipe below).
Yield: 4 servings.
RICE WITH FIDES
(Pilafi me Fides)
1 cup long grain rice
½ cup crushed fideos or vermicelli
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried chives
1. Rinse rice in water until it is clear and all the starch is gone. This is what they call in Pennsylvania Dutch Country as “Washing in Several Waters.”
2. Combine the rice and fideos and sauté in the butter in a 2-quart saucepan until golden brown. Add the chicken broth and chives. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, lower heat and simmer 20 to 25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
3. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.