|The swoon-worthy Dmitri Hvorostovsky|
Here's how I whipped up my pre-opera dinner. The sauce was created in the morning during a break between students using some ingredients I found in my fridge and freezer:
|Swoon-worthy ingredients: an eggplant, a bag of frozen tomatoes, some frozen chopped dill, half an onion, some garlic|
Next, I cut the eggplant into 1" cubes. (Get out your rulers; it is crucial for each cube to measure exactly 1 inch on each side. Not!) When the onions had softened (5 minutes-ish), I put in the eggplant cubes and stirred around until the oil had been evenly absorbed. With eggplant, you need to start stirring immediately after adding it to the oil; otherwise, the greedy bottom layer would drink up all the oil, leaving none for the rest of the pile.
I cooked this for a few minutes, stirring more or less continually, until the eggplant looked like this:
Then I dumped in my frozen tomatoes. You could use canned tomatoes for this as well — or fresh, if you have them. Canned tomatoes would produce a sauce-ier dish, but equally delicious. I also added a bit of salt.
I stirred this up, covered it, and left it to simmer until the eggplant was cooked (10-15 minutes, I think, but just taste a piece of eggplant to be sure). Then I dumped in a big pile of chopped dill and stirred it up and let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Notice how I've learned not to add the fresh herb too early in the process, thereby cooking the flavor right out.
That's it for the sauce. I went back to teaching for a few more hours — there is a huge advantage to working at home, I'll admit. In the evening, when I was ready for my pre-opera meal, I put the sauce back on a low flame to reheat and assembled my remaining ingredients:
A few minutes before mealtime, I brought a pot of salted water to the boil, added the gnocchi, and let it cook until done. Another delightful aspect of gnocchi is how quickly it cooks — in only a minute or two, the little dumplings float to the surface, indicating their readiness. I drained them in a strainer and put a little pile on my plate. On top, I ladled some eggplant/tomato/dill sauce and grated a layer of cheese:
|Quick and easy pre-theater meal|