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The Cookstr Weekly: Tomatoes Galore

August 9, 2013

Have you ever wondered why the cheese prominently featured in Chicken and Eggplant Parm is mozzarella? The ‘Parm’ in the title likely comes from Parmigiana, meaning ‘from Parma’, in Northern Italy. But to confuse the matter further, Chicken Parm is a Southern Italian dish (Veal Parmigiana, which did originate in Parma, consisted of veal cutlets breaded and fried – no cheese, no tomato). Another theory attributes the ‘Parm’ to the Sicilian word parmiciana, referring to the slats of wood which compose the central part of a shutter and which overlap, as do the thin slices of eggplant in Eggplant Parm. The inclusion of parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano) cheese is the least complex explanation.

Then there’s the sauce: most Americans commonly refer to a classic Italian tomato-basil sauce as marinara, which actually means ‘mariner’s wife’ and, predictably, traditionally includes seafood. The tomato sauce we’re talking about is more accurately called pomarola, whether the Tuscan variety, which is cooked longer, or the Neapolitan, which is cooked for less time and is often applied to pizza.
When I shared a draft of this newsletter with Will, he pointed out that I might want to address the great Italian-American ‘sauce vs. gravy’ debate as well. I emailed back that I hadn’t even thought of that, because for me, ‘sauce’ is so obviously correct! There’s some geographic demarkation here – in South Philly and Brooklyn you might hear gravy, while in South Jersey and the Bronx it’s often sauce. Defendants of both sides claim authenticity back to the motherland, as a Southern vs. Northern Italian conundrum, but linguistically, sauce is closest to the Italian sugo, a word used for a tomato-based sauce. I think of gravy as more in line with meat-based ragu.
But my family isn’t one to get caught up in the technicalities. My Uncle Tony grows Jersey tomatoes behind his shoe store, chops them with basil, salt and pepper, onions, and a little vinegar, and keeps them in the fridge for weeks to eat with too-sharp Provolone and crusty bread. And my Uncle Richie has been known to enjoy lasagna I’ve made with spinach, tofu, leftover mushroom risotto, and eggplant-tomato sauce that I’d frozen towards the end of last year’s tomato season. When it comes to devouring the glut of summer tomatoes, the authenticity of the dishes we make with them is the least of our concerns.
Warmest regards,
Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Domenica Marchetti

 Eggplant parm is one of my go-tos: comfort food and special occasion-worthy all in one. This recipe includes canned peeled whole and canned stewed tomatoes rather than fresh, so grab some high-quality ones at the store or use ones that you canned last summer. Fresh and smoked mozzarella are both called for here, and cooks should note that fresh mozzarella contains high levels of moisture which will be released into the final dish. If you prefer a drier result, use part-skim mozzarella. 

More Tomato Recipes from Cookstr

 Chilled Avocado Tomato Soup by Lisa Mann
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Toaster Oven Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes by Angela Tunner
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Hot Hot Tomato Chutney by Christopher Idone
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Chefs’ Tips & Tricks: Lavender-Scented French Vanilla Ice Cream with Broiled Fresh Figs

 

“To me, this recipe screams “Provence!” If you’ve never cooked with dried lavender, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised; when used correctly, its gorgeous fragrance lends itself perfectly to a rich frozen custard. Make sure, however, that you use only the edible lavender (available in specialty food shops) and not the kind meant for scented pouches. When making ice cream, make sure to set up correctly to prevent the risk of curdling the custard, which can happen if it’s initially overheated. If you don’t feel like making ice cream, just serve these buttered, sugared, and broiled figs on top of a scoop of your favorite store-bought vanilla ice cream or some lightly sweetened, thick crème fraîche.”  – Lauren Groveman

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