Ashley makes a formidable coconut flan, tries on a fried eggplant taco.
"There is no malice in him; he is as trustful as a child. In point of fact, his childishness is more prominent than his creator intended it to be. When...he suggests performing "mad things" as a penance--additional deliberate "mad things" on top of his normal madness--so to speak, he shows a rather limited schoolboyish imagination in the way of his pranks."
-from V. Nabokov's lectures on Cervantes' Don Quixote, Harvard Univ., 1951.
"America don't want to see us work, they want to see us LIVE. Tron is livin' for the ci-TAY!"
Ask Ashley for the flan recipe--annihilating business, forcing shameful predawn trips down the stairs to scoop it out of the fridge between gulps of Brunton's 2% milk--I remember ribbons of raspberry sugar syrup running from my tipping spoon, evidentiary only to the moon and my own fatigued sense of place and time.
My life as an educator has yet to begin so it would be egregiously premature to make lessons of my poverty, my secular self searching and the like as if a bare shred of enlightenment grew in either anyway. Now, Lent and Siddharthan confrontations set aside, purposefully and to the enrichment of color and flavor alike, we must, you and I, go back to fucking around in the kitchen, flower petals and cashews on the floor. With whiskey.
Eggplant tacos with chili mascarpone crema and pickled cabbage.
The one in the middle looks like Willie Nelson.
18 corn tortillas
1 medium eggplant
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 c. fresh bread crumbs
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 c. pinto beans
1 sm. yellow onion chopped
1/2 sm. head green cabbage
1 sprig cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 clove garlic, pulverized
1 bunch scallions, chopped--greens and all. DO NOT WASTE THE GREENS!
2 heaping tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 c. mascarpone--I recommend the tasty, cloudy Vermont Creamery brand--they're sustainable too!
3 chipotle chilies in adobo, chopped
1 tsp milk
a pinch of annato seeds steeped in 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil--seeds discarded once a deep blood orange oil color is achieved.
The tacos, since meat was out of the question were amply substituted with fried eggplant. I sliced one medium eggplant into disks the thickness of an average magazine--quite thin. Salt them and leave them for a half an hour or so to dry. The salt will cause moisture to bead on the surface: pat the disks dry of any pooling water with a dry towel. Add to a paper bag with flour, shake to coat. Dredge in egg then coat in bread crumbs. Allow the disks of eggplant to air dry while you prepare the accompaniments.
Saute the beans and tomatoes, beginning with the aromatics--I think this time I had some leftover fennel greens which I added to the garlic and onions. Celery is always welcome too. As you add the beans and tomatoes adjust the liquid level--water is fine, but stock or tomato juice is even better. I also like to secret in a squeeze of anchovy paste. Allow this to simmer, moving right along.
For the cabbage you will simply slice it in the fashion of a slaw, adding the cilantro, aromatics and acids, adjusting to taste. A pinch of sugar will take the sharp edge off if you notice one--or simply sub in orange juice for the lime. In the end this element is primarily added for textural contrast. The flavor, though supportive, should at least be pleasing.
The crema is, too, purely a matter of consistency. As long as you can rely on the quality of the two fundamentals, the mascarpone and the chipotles, the flavor is an unspoken promise. Start the mixture with the colored oil, mixing the mascarpone and chilies in, adding the milk later, only if needed. It should be the consistency of sour cream, the color of cantaloupe.
At this point time management should be a consideration: The tortillas will take about about twenty minutes to griddle to pliability--you'll want them to appear at once darkened in spots and slightly puffed with steam. So too you'll want to watch the beans and tomatoes. With your final season, mash the beans--keep the consistency of refried beans or loose mashed potatoes in mind.
Meanwhile fry the eggplant in neutral oil set to 350 degrees. It will brown, then float. Season, then allow the crisped pieces to air dry briefly. This will ensure the eggplant will provide an inner meatiness and an exterior crunch so you don't feel like such a loser ass vegetarian--not that you should necessarily.
As the last of eggplant emerges from the fry and the tortillas rest under a warm damp towel you might want to consider a salsa. Frankly at this point it's all salsa anyhow, but if you have an avocado, a bit of corn and a pinch of broccoli sprouts lying around, it's fair game: mash em up. Otherwise anything, prepared or easily assembled on the spot is fine. I don't like particularizing salsa--or anything truthfully, as it really does encumber our availability to surprise. On a hurried lunch between shifts days after making these tacos I added a sliced pear to mine in the place of guacamole and found it jarringly appropriate. In fact, I recommend it.
In the order best suited to your already taxed post-lenten sense of ritual you will want to construct and consume the tacos, then and there, or later as you like, evidentiary only to your own moral compass and the moon.
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