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riz safran lambbrochettesredwine sauce redwine marin eggplatrico 038How to characterize, from a reader’s perspective, the ideal recipe in written form?  The results to which it leads are naturally paramount.  But putting aside that qualification, recipe styles differ.  Some are more pleasing than others.  All cooks will have their own ideas of why this is so.  And any one food writer’s style may contain elements of the ideal but can’t be the ideal.  Here is one view.

The ideal recipe is like a good teacher…it will know when to be quiet.  It will give the reader a sense that it is there to assist, if asked.  But it will not be so full of directions that whoever uses it will begin to feel that there is no room for improvisation.  In writing out a recipe, there is no getting around the use of the imperative mood, but it ought to be an imperative more suggestive of polite entreaty than a command.   ‘Try it this way if you like’ is good manners. There is almost always more than one way in the whole wide world to skin a cat–or roast a chicken–and the ideal recipe’s tone implicitly acknowledges it.

At the same time, the ideal recipe ought to have a conscious sense of its audience.  There will be sufficient information to satisfy a beginner’s difficulty in visualizing the steps in making something a bit intricate for the first time–say, for example, puff pastry.   It’s legitimate for the recipe writer to decide not to bother with the basics, and then, he should say so.  In her charming and quirky book of recipes, I Go A’Marketing (1900), Henriette Sowle prefaces her recipes with the proviso, “[They, i.e. her recipes] are for the housekeeper who knows by experience, or intuition, how to lay a fire, and how to broil a steak.  With kindergarten methods it does not deal–it rather takes it for granted that it will fall into the hands of those who have been graduated from kindergarten cooking.”  Having read that, the reader who knows herself, knows where she stands in relation to Mrs. Sowle’s recipes right off the bat.  (Some of us will have to learn how to lay that fire before we can go under Mrs. Sowle’s opinionated and almost always interesting tutelage.)

Rarely will the ideal recipe claim for itself the honour of being a new creation.  You can almost always find a precedent for a recipe among the many in- and out-of-print cookbooks published over the centuries.  Recipes are like folk songs–they are passed along and each new recipient adds to and subtracts from them.  By nautre recipes are collaborative works.

Just as one does not always want to read novels of the same style, one style of recipe does not fit all cooking moods.  If one is tired, one is inclined to want to be told what to do in the simplest and kindest of terms.   When the world seems full of woes and complications, a recipe from one of Laurie Colwin’s collections of articles (Home Cooking and More Home Cooking) is a soothing-to-the-soul guide to a simple, good time in the kitchen.  One from More Home Cooking on baking a chocolate cake begins like this: “You never know where you will find a recipe. They are often hidden in unexpected places. I did not anticipate finding a chocolate cake in a children’s book, but in a small, charming volume titled Happy Winter, written and illustrated by Karen Gundersheimer, I did.”  (Anyone interested in the recipe may find it here online.)

In a more self-sufficient mood, one may prefer recipes where the writer is barely in evidence.  The recipes in Helmut Lothar Ripperger’s ‘single ingredient’ cookbooks are quintessential examples of the recipe ‘sketch’, like this one for ‘Coffee Nut Cream’ from his Coffee Cookery (1940):  “Cut up thirty marshmallows and pour over them one cup of very strong, hot coffee.  When cool, stir in 1 cup of cream which has been stiffly whipped and one half a cup of pecans or walnuts chopped.  Serve very cold.” 

Lastly, the ideal recipe is companionable.  Fragments of the writer’s personality will shine through the written word.  Some literary cooks have a flair for wit; they entertain while they explain how to make something good to eat.  Some are more reticent.  (London-based chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe-writing style falls into this latter category. ) None are overbearing.  All, in their various ways, invite the readers to go into the kitchen and enjoy themselves.

riz safran lambbrochettesredwine sauce redwine marin eggplatrico 029Eggplant Tricolore Ottolenghi (for 6 people)

Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.

Serving Note:  The photographed eggplant dish is shown arranged on a single large serving platter.  A smaller version of the same arrangement would be used for individual servings.

riz safran lambbrochettesredwine sauce redwine marin eggplatrico 008Ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 Eggplants:  there should be enough for 3 – 4 good-sized slices for each person)
  • Olive Oil for roasting the eggplant slices plus 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil to mix with the vegetables
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1 large or 2 medium-sized Red Bell Peppers, cut in small cubes
  • 15 Yellow Cherry Tomatoes, quartered:  If yellow tomatoes aren’t available, you might reverse the colours of the vegetables and use red tomatoes and yellow or green peppers.
  • 1 Tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar
  • 4 Tablespoons of Capers and 1 Tablespoon of Caper Juice
  • 6 ounces of Fresh Mozarella, cut in small cubes
  • Single leaves of fresh Coriander (Cilantro) to garnish each individual plate


  • Parchment-lined Baking Sheets for roasting the eggplant slices
  • a large Mixing Bowl
  • a Platter and/or Individual serving plates

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Cut the eggplants into 3/4-inch rounds.  Place them on the parchment-lined baking sheets.  Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and black pepper…

riz safran lambbrochettesredwine sauce redwine marin eggplatrico 020…Roast them for 25 – 30 minutes, or until they are soft and golden.  Set them aside to cool.

2.  In the mixing bowl, combine the bell pepper cubes, tomatoes, vinegar, capers, caper juice, mozarella and 3 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Set the mixture aside for 30 minutes (or a bit longer if it suits your timing better) at room temperature.

riz safran lambbrochettesredwine sauce redwine marin eggplatrico 0233.  Just before serving, taste the salad mixture and adjust the seasoning.  Add a little more salt, pepper, or balsamic vinegar, to suit your taste.  Arrange 3 – 4 eggplant slices on each individual plate or (to include this dish in a self-service menu) on a large serving platter:

riz safran lambbrochettesredwine sauce redwine marin eggplatrico 0284.  Spoon the marinated vegetables and mozarella over the eggplant and garnish with single leaves of fresh coriander:

riz safran lambbrochettesredwine sauce redwine marin eggplatrico 036A Note:  Eggplant Tricolore Ottolenghi is the First Course of the Lunch Menu:
A Cold Winter’s Day Luncheon Reminiscent of Sunny Climes.  The recipe is adapted from one in Mr. Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty (2011).

riz safran lambbrochettesredwine sauce redwine marin eggplatrico 043An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012