“We write to taste life in the moment and in retrospect. ” Anais Nin
This Persian recipe takes a little time to prepare. Each ingredient is gently pan fried and then assembled together for a final roasting. I didn’t have any tamarind paste so I substituted lime with brown sugar. I also didn’t have fresh tomatoes so I made sauce instead. The sweetness of the sauce makes for a delightful surprising combination to enhance the soft eggplant and brings all the flavors together.
Yesterday I started packing up my studio. I have just a few more days there and then my grief blog is ready to come to a years end. I thought about how much Abby and I loved to communicate with each other as I organized a shoe box of letters I had written her that she lovingly had saved over the years. I have re-read each letter that spans a decade of the 1990’s. I have come to see this as a box of longing. Longing to be in Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin… longing to be near my friend, year after year, letter after letter. The box also includes romantic letters I must have given her from an old love. She knew all to well that I had a tendency to throw away things out of anger and pain. I am so glad she hung onto them for me. There was also a letter from a few friends and lovers of hers, photos, cards and some poetic scribblings as well. The day of her memorial her daughter Rita gave me this cherished gift. I had no idea Abby still had these.
I thought about the last thing that Abby had ever communicated with me. Days before she sent her last text we were having a phone conversation while I was taking a walk. I remember it was a warm early morning and the crab apple blossoms were all over the sidewalk were I was standing. I was looking down. She said Rita had come to get the kids and she needed to hang up. We were trying to agree upon a good date for a visit. I was finally coming back to the Midwest to see her. That next morning she texted me. ” I’m sorry I had to go so abruptly….I feel there was something else you wanted to say.” Those were her last words to me….. I responded with a “nope” and a winking emoji.
But I was wrong. I was very wrong. There were many many many more things I wanted to say….hence “A Year at Portsmouth.”
Ingredients: 3/4 pound ground beef, 4 large minced garlic cloves, 3/4 tsp curry powder, 2 eggplants about 1.5 pounds cut into 1/2 inch slices, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 large potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices, 1 large onion peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices, 1 large green pepper cored and sliced ( I used red), 1.5 cups water, 4 tbsp tamarind paste, 1.5 tbsp sugar, 3 ripe tomatoes cut into 1/2 inch slices, salt and pepper.
1.Preheat oven to 400. Place the beef and half the garlic into a bowl, add curry powder ( I used ground cumin and turmeric) and mix. Make into 12 small meatballs and set aside.
2. Heat a large non stick pan to medium high heat. Brush the eggplant with oil on both sides and cook for 4-5 minutes each side until golden. Brush the potato slices with oil and cook for about 6 minutes on each side. They should be golden but not cooked all the way through. Set aside.
3.Cook the onion slices and pepper in about 2 tbsp of oil for about 5 minutes. At last minute put in remaining garlic and set aside. Cook meatballs for about 2-3 minutes until golden but not cooked through.
4. In a measuring cup mix the water with the tamarind paste and sugar until blended. Arrange the eggplant, potato, onion, pepper, tomatoes and meatballs in a 12 inch round baking dish overlapping them. Pour over the sauce. Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes then uncover and cook 20 minutes more. Serve with basmati rice.