I love a meal that takes a little bit of attention at various points throughout the day. You’ll start something in the morning. You’ll forget about it for a few hours and go ineffectively do some housework, or go on adventures in the secret passage that leads to the other secret passage on the other other side of the canal. You’ll go home and slice this and mix that, and then leave it while you take the boys to a creek or the river. And then just before dinner you’ll have a big glass of wine and start putting everything together. This is just such a meal! You can start the dough, and leave it for hours. You can slice and salt the eggplant, and leave that for a while. Come back, punch down some dough, make a marinade for the eggplant, go about your business. Plus it tasted really good! Crispy eggplant, fresh tomatoes, a soft but crispy cornmeal crust, a subtly flavored roasted garlic custard, smoky mozzarella, some briny olives, and some fresh basil. What could be better than all that? I actually roasted a whole head of garlic, in a little pottery garlic roaster, and used a few of those cloves. You can also toast a couple cloves in a toaster oven, or roast them in the oven at 425 for about 15 minutes, to take the edge off. It won’t be quite as soft and delicious, but good nonetheless.
Here’s Nina Simone’s Work Song.
1 cup cornmeal
2 cups flour
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 + 1/2 cups warm water
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 T rosemary, chopped
Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl and set aside to get foamy. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and rosemary, mix well, and make a well in the center. Add the yeast and olive oil. Stir to combine. Add about another half cup warm water until you have a soft, workable dough. Knead for about seven minutes. Put in a large lightly oiled bowl and set aside to rise for about two hours. Punch/fold it down, and leave it for about another hour. Punch down, and let it sit while you prepare the filling. Then stretch/roll/press or some combination of all three onto a large, lightly oiled baking sheet. Make the edge a little thicker, so you have a crust.
ROASTED GARLIC CUSTARD
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/3 cup milk
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1/2 t salt
plenty of pepper
2 cloves roasted garlic (or toasted, if you don’t have time to roast)
Mix everything together in a bowl till it’s smooth and creamy.
1 large eggplant, prepared this way. I used breadcrumbs, freshly ground black pepper, and just a tiny bit of flour as the breading this time.
1 tomato thinly sliced
1 t thyme
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
Put the crust in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes, till it seems set and not shiny. Remove it from the oven. Spread the custard evenly over it, leaving about an inch for crust. Spread the tomatoes in a pretty pattern (I did a cross shape). Spread the eggplant over them in a pretty pattern, leaving some tomatoes and custard shining through. Scatter thyme, grated smoked mozzarella, and olives over the top.
Bake for about 20 minutes, till the crust starts to look brown, the cheese is melted, and in the places where the custard pokes through the eggplant it looks puffed and golden.
Let cool slightly, scatter fresh chopped basil over the top, slice and serve!