Welcome back to Cilantro and Sage after a brief hiatus. Mouth-watering eggplant parmesan, anyone? Yes, these stories are linked by all being set at a restaurant called Cilantro and Sage but each is a standalone.
The bar’s quiet, except for the drink orders going into the dining room. A few patrons who didn’t make reservations sit at high tops, enjoying their Cilantro and Sage meal in a little less sophistication. Instead of the jazz pianist, they have a folk singer. He’s good though, Alex will give him that, as the musician sings a Lumineers song.
Alex mixes a couple of martinis, pours Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, when the short brunette comes to the bar. She has a tough time getting onto the stool in her very short sundress so he pretends he doesn’t notice her awkwardness.
“Are you eating?” he asks.
She nods. “I’m Kelsey.”
He nods in return. Introductions are not obligatory for being served. He slides a menu in front of her. “Do you want a drink?”
Shrugging she glances around at the other patrons. “Uh, I guess so. I’m not much of a drinker, what would you suggest?”
“Do you like wine?”
“Maybe. Nothing heavy.”
He pours a gewürztraminer. Immediately condensation builds on the side of the wine glass. He watches as she takes a sip.
“Um, wow. That’s nice. It’s sweet and yet grapefruity. What’s it called?”
“The magic elixir,” he says.
“Naw. Let me know when you want to order.”
He returns ten minutes later to find her still perusing the menu, biting her lip as if this were a physics exam rather than a restaurant menu. Her wide green eyes look up at him. They’re bright jade with hints of topaz. Now, it’s his turn to think, “wow.”
“Tell me what’s good. I would like meatless tonight, but eggplant parmesan can be hit or miss.”
“Definitely a hit here. Thinly cut eggplant that’s been coated in Italian breadcrumbs and fried. Lots of savory sauce with oregano and garlic. And the pièce de résistance, the very best mozzarella, melted and browned.”
“You make it sound so good.”
“It’s my favorite. I shared my mama’s recipe.”
“That’s me done,” she says. “I can’t wait.”
He puts in her order and then bangs his head three times against the door jamb.
Ewan punches his arm. “Is this the point where I tell you to just say ‘no’?”
“Look at her. Could you say ‘no’ to that?”
“Uh, yes. I’m married. She looks nice.”
“The nice ones are the scariest.”
Kate’s very unsweet tones fill the kitchen. Ewan chuckles. “I wouldn’t know.”
The magic elixir recipe is easy: go purchase a bottle of gewürztraminer. If you can get one from Alsace, oh, la la.
Like Kelsey from the story above, eggplant parmesan can be a real hit or miss. My mom’s recipe is the one I’ve used despite the fact I’ve tried others. The recipe is not healthy. The thinly sliced eggplant goes through a bath of egg and then Italian bread crumbs and then is fried in olive oil. This is the longest process. Frying each thinly sliced bit of eggplant and then layering it in a baking dish with sauce and mozzarella. Don’t be skimpy with either the sauce (one of your favorite jarred sauces will do) or the mozzarella. You bake it (375F) until the sauce is bubbling and the mozzarella is browned. Yes, browned. You’ll thank me.
Here are some recipes that might do the trick (and by that, ones that aren’t suggesting 3/4 inch slice of eggplant, which I think is too thick):
This one bakes the eggplant rather than frying it. It’s okay. Not the best: Eggplant Parmesan
This one sounds a like lot what I make: