Wednesday, April 4, 2012


On my last night in Austin, Louisa invited our friends Joel and Ted over for dinner. We decided it would be the perfect opportunity for some Italian-style feasting. Joel agreed to make a salad and bruschetta, and we agreed to make a pasta, a meat, and a vegetable side. The games had begun.

For the meat course - well, actually, for all of our dishes - Louisa and I took inspiration from one of my very favorite places, Frankies Spuntino. (Every recipe mentioned here can be found in their cookbook.) Their rib eye roast is a garlicky delight, and they serve it sliced cold. Make-ahead steak with garlic and herbs? Sold.

We bought a 2 1/2 pound rib eye roast, had it deboned, and rubbed it all over with garlic, parsley and thyme. We let it hang out in the fridge for 24 hours, then roasted it slowly in the oven, where it browned gorgeously all over and rendered just the tiniest amount of fat. I resisted temptation and popped that baby back in the fridge, where it stayed for another five or six hours.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Louisa worked her magic on a sweet and sour baked eggplant dish. See, what you do is make a caramel in the bottom of a sauce pan, then deglaze it with vinegar. In go the hand-crushed tomatoes - along with a healthy amount of salt and garlic - to simmer for half an hour.

In the meantime, Louisa roasted some sliced eggplant. We then layered the eggplant with the sauce (saving some of it for pouring later) and roasted it again. Before we served it, we topped the whole thing with ricotta salata and mint. It's eggplant parmesan re-imagined for summer, folks. (And, apparently, Sicilian.)

For the pasta course, I made Frankies justly famous fresh pasta (we used penne) with hot sausage, browned butter and sage. It was damn good, as always.

And then, then - we sliced the roast. Pink all the way through, redolent of herbs and garlic, and a worthy companion to the eggplant. Add in Joel's delicious salad (dressed with his new obsession, white balsamic) and amazing bruschetta with grilled kale and tomatoes, and it's clear. This is how you do summer, Italian-style, kids.

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