I had just finished a few hours of grueling physical labor, moving boxes of comic books about and getting them in order when, finally exhausted, I begged off for the afternoon and went to the bookstore. At Half Price I immediately hit the cooking section and found myself surrounded by young, hipster-ish looking women, but being grown up and adult and, well…focused…I simply perused the shelves and…whoa!

Patricia Wells’ Trattoria cookbook. Italian, which she justifies somehow by her maiden last name of Ricci so…sure, why not. Much like her Bistro Cooking cookbook which covers provincial, down home French country cooking, so too does Trattoria for the Italian cuisine.

Now, as some of you may know, cooking simply one dish every day…well, how far can that take you to flavor town? So of course, I approached the book from its first pages and checked out the variety of starters–antipasti.

Cooking what amounted to five dishes does require a certain amount of organization, as well as canny selection in the menu, so I started with crema formaggio al’ollio (goat cheese and garlic spread) which is goat cheese, garlic, and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil.

In addition, there was mousse de tonno (lemon and oregano-seasoned tuna mousse) which required, again, keeping my fingers out of the food processor and scraping it all into the dish and into the refrigerator. Easy work.

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For the insalata di rughetta, pignoli, e parmi (arrugula, pine nut, and parmesan salad) I had to toast some pine nuts on the stovetop rather than in the oven as said oven was already occupied with dish #4 which you will learn of shortly.

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The highlight of the dinner, however, was probably the parmigiani di melanzane (individual eggplant parmesans) which required the individual slices of eggplant to be broiled front and back, dolloped with a scosh of tomato sauce (my homemade romesco sauce it turned out), a sliver of mozzarella with a sprinkling of Parmesan and one’s preferred herb, and broiled one last time.

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Finally, and perhaps the best received item were the pomodori al forno, tomatoes seared in olive oil on the skillet, then put into the oven to roast with olive oil, salt, and thyme. Very simple and very tasty.

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A few slices of bread, an unassuming Pinot Grigio and we were quite sated.

Notes: both my wife and I thought the eggplant Parmesan was ‘ok’ but needed something to punch it up. A sprinkling of red pepper flakes seemed to work just fine.

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