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Summer Reading: Cooking With Curtis

Many of you have written in and asked my opinion of Curtis Stone, aka The Take Home Chef. Truth be told, I don't know too much about him, other than he started at Melbourne's Savoy Hotel at the age of 18, and then later moved on to The Grill Room with Marco Pierre White (Godon Ramsay's mentor/nemesis). I also know that he's the author of a beautiful book called Cooking with Curtis: Easy, Everyday and Adventurous Recipes for the Home Cook.

The book is divided into four seasonal chapters, as well as three difficulty levels, and is full of mouth-watering dishes like Deep-Fried Eggplant and Mozzarella with Basil, Lentil Stew with Spicy Sausage and Crispy Pork Belly. It is clear that Stone's mission is to celebrate fresh seasonal ingredients and to get you, the home cook, interested in exploring the possibilities. There are plenty of tips and each recipe has a gorgeous photo to accompany it.

To get a taste of what the book has to offer — aka the recipe for Deep-Fried Eggplant and Mozzarella with Basil —

Deep-Fried Eggplant and Mozzarella with Basil
From Cooking with Curtis by Curtis Stone

2 tablespoons/30 ml olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red jalapeno chili, chopped
7 ripe plum tomatoes, finely diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For eggplant sandwiches:
1 eggplant (cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices)
One 7-ounce ball fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese (cut crosswise into 8 slices)
8 fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup/95 g all purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups/210 g dried plain bread crumbs
Safflower oil, for deep frying

  1. To make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and chili and sauté for another 1 minute.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are very tender and mushy, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. To make the eggplant sandwiches. Arrange the eggplant slices on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and allow them to sit for 10 minutes. Rinse the eggplant under cold running water to remove the salt. Pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towels.
  4. Place 1 slice of cheese and 1 basil leaf atop 1 eggplant slice. Top with a second eggplant slice. Repeat to make 8 sandwiches total. Place the flour, eggs and bread crumbs in 3 separate shallow bowls or pie plates.
  5. Working with 1 eggplant sandwich at a time, dredge the eggplant sandwiches in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip the sandwiches in the eggs, allowing the excess egg to drip back into the bowl of eggs, and dredge in the bread crumbs to coat completely.
  6. Repeat the process to give the eggplant sandwich a second coating of the eggs and bread crumbs (not the flour). Add enough oil to a heavy large frying pan to reach the depth of 2 inches/5 cm. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350°F/180°C.
  7. Working in batches, add the sandwiches to the hot oil and fry until they are golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the fried sandwiches to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
  8. Sprinkle the hot sandwiches with salt. Cut each sandwich into 4 wedges. Serve the sandwiches on a platter with the warm tomato sauce.
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