Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Brining Test!

So you don't think I offed us all with turkey poisoning, I shall finish my report on the science experiment.

Ah yes, the "Brine Test".

Everyone needs a good shaking of their faith to get them back on their toes. And mine was a in the form of a little crispy brown fat looking bird.

So, there he was all nice & golden brown, looking plump & pleasant, and until then I hadn't given the taste a second thought. But upon pulling it out, a bit of the turkey stuck to to the oven rack & so I pop it in my mouth thinking "Yum, Turkey". And what does it taste like?

Well, like you'd expect something to taste if you've any brain at all & your turkey had been soaking it in salt for 13 hours.....SALTY. Oh no, not just SALTY but, I mean, SALTY!!! Suddenly I was struck with the thought that I had just made the dumbest mistake of my Christmas dinner life and a certain brother in law was on the other side of the world with his salsa & bean dip & having a good laugh on my account.

But just when I was about run away from home with stuffing and gravy in tow, dear Significant Other cut the turkey, and to my shock (though not his, I guess he had faith) it was not overly salty but just about the softest turkey you ever did eat. It cut like butter & it was smooth & soft, even the very outer breast parts.

So all that to say......I BELIEVE!!!

It worked great & I intend to try it out with other poultry in smaller increments. And if you're weak in faith...............Just grab yourself a turkey & brine it!

Post Script: My S.O. & I have concluded that I tasted the part of the turkey at the very bottom of it, probably the part that got all the salt & drippings into it. The gravy was the perfect saltiness without having to add anything either.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!!

Thanks to my Jono-in-law I have decided to try brining my turkey. It's not yet baked so I'll tell you how it goes. It was all very "science experiment" like. The turkey. It's 13 lb. (6 kgs)
The container I'm using. Thank you Ashley, it's her treasure box washed out. (Can never be too sure about some of those treasures, you know)
The ENORMOUS amount of salt used. (2 1/2 c for my 2 1/2 gallons of water)
The spices
and seasonings
The brine (It's brown cuz of the brown sugar) I kept it in a cooler w/ ice cuz' I have not room in the fridge)
And here is poor Oscar in the bath. Makes me feel like going to the sento!! With onions floating with me.
Well, wish Oscar luck. And I'll have to fly to Mexico to strangle a certain brother in law if it doesn't!
Christmas dinner will be pulled off with 2 adults towing 8 children & a frying pan. Have a good one too.
And PS: if you wanna call me for a recipe or cooking advice, have the kindness to PRETEND that you're just calling to wish me a Merry Christmas first!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Go Stuff Yourself! (in the non-Aussie sense!)

Thought I should post at least one Christmas recipe since I haven’t put up anything for Christmas cooking. But if you want to snoop around my Dec 2006 archive you’re sure to find a few good pie recipes at the very least.

It turns out I already put this one up as well come to think of it. (oh well, I’m tired) Here’s my “Al’s messed up stuffing”. I don't know about you but nothing says stuffing for me like dried cranberries. I don't think it would be the same without them. Or apples, or pecans for that matter. I'm putting this up for Gabe (of Winny) who asked me what I do for my stuff. Here you go bro. In true authentic "Al" fashion (aka: total chaos) right next to (what else) nikujaga! Don't stress about getting the bread incriment right. It's about 6 1/2 c. of bread of whatever type. My main tip: DON'T OVER MIX! OKEY-DOKEY?

Though you’re already eating it tonight at M/F’s Party. Which BTW, was great fun cooking for & I do NOT envy the clean up crew. YIKES!!! My contribution was a drop in the bucket but it was great fun. Can you believe it, I didn't even take any pics of my food. Darn!

Thanks everyone at home for letting me have some “hobby time”. Now it’s on to C’mas dinner, FOR REAL!

Love, Peace & Turkey Grease!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cooking for Fun!

The Lord must love me today!! I offered to help a Mark & Faith with their Christmas dinner party & I’m going to help with a few things. Believe me, it’s just a drop in the bucket, they have a few other helpers, but I got to choose the desserts. I picked some good Christmassy ones. I couldn’t help it with the Grasshopper Pie, it just has got great coloring. So anyway here’s what I’m making. I know it sounds wacky but it’s just so darn fun to cater, esp. when you have a flexible budget & menu. It’s like playing ‘food toys’. Though I’ll have to do most of it in my spare time I think I’ll be able to cover it OK. So here’s the list:

Roast Turkey
New England apple nut stuffing
Cold Tuna Mozarella Pasta
Mushroom & Bacon Pasta
Raspberry Cheesecake
Grasshopper Pie
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Avocado Salsa
Bacon Sour Cream Dip

And for you in the United States of America, cranberries are like GOLD about ½ a cup of frozen cranberries for about 4.00$. That would mean it would cost about 30.00$ to make cranberry sauce. So I guess I won’t be having any this year. PTL!!

I’m wishing I could get some real solid advice about Trifle, for example, what’s the closest thing to the Ladyfingers, or whatever you use for the “biscuity” part. And what’s the traditional liquor to use, I’ve read for the most part Sherry or Brandy? Gee, I wish Nick was around, that dude knew pretty much all there was to know about Trifle.

OH, & BTW, if anyone has a tried & proven cornbread stuffing recipe please email me.

Nighty night!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Eggnog Night

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a tradition, (That word makes me squirm just a little too much) but it’s something that my kids sure enjoy. Bake a couple of batches of cookies & whip up a batch of eggnog, put them all in their PJ’s & watch a Christmas movie or sing some Christmas songs.

Then, when all the cups are washed & the kids are occupied in goes the rum & out sneak all the sneaky mommy & daddy ‘noggers’. It does mystify me though that something as simple as basic custard with whipped egg whites & cream with some nutmeg could become a favorite. No doubt it was invented by some Puritan over-indulgent-whip-cream-snitching lady who had 18 children & added a little rum to calm her frayed nerves. (Sounds like something I would have invented)

So since I shall be busy hosting an Eggnog Night for the hoards I don’t have time to expound on a recipe per se. And since I don’t even use one I won’t bother. I’ve seen several varieties & people seem pretty protective of their eggnog groove, I won’t make any blanket statements. I’ll just leave you with a few noggin thoughts.

Thought 1#: LESS IS MORE! If you ever want to think kindly of eggnog, please don’t drink more than 2 cup fulls. Unless you are like a certain Gene-ious with good hi-Gene, who shall remain anonymous --- and who easily downed 8-9 cup fulls and nearly jumped into the punch bowl to lick the remains. JUST DON’T!

Thought 2#: COOKIES, ANYONE! If you don’t have time, make some dough in advance & freeze it, (roll it into a cylander & wrap it with wax paper) that way you can slice it up & bake a batch for your nogg nite. I would recommend a simple spice filled cookie, or gingersnaps.

Thought 3#: BLEND BABY! That is to say, give the flavors a chance to blend, make it the night before & let it sit in your fridge with a huge menacing sign to ward off midnight snack hunters. But beware of adding egg whites too far in advance.

And with that I shall put in a personal plug. If ever you happen to find a nutmeg tree, please be so kind as to cut down a few pods for me. To heck with that, saw down the tree & drag it my way & I’ll be eternally grateful. Thank you, and good night!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Soup & Scones (Pt 2)

So, here’s the “scones” part of the “Soup & Scones”. I know that the onion topping sounds a bit radical (or at least it did to me) but I ended up really enjoying these. Even though I had a "consistancy" issue & didn't even try to roll & score these, nonetheless they were great as "dropped" scones.

According to the cookbook I got these from they were called "Savory Scones". Aptly named too. The word “Savory” totally describes these. The brown sugar in the topping gives it a slightly sweet hint & I used fresh rosemary (my favorite) in the topping & that to me set this in a class of it's own. The scone itself was crispy on the outside & inside almost similar to cornbread in texture. Not bad!! So here’s how I did it. First the topping:

Butter or margarine 2 tbsp
1 large onion thinly sliced
rosemary 1 tsp (or 1 tbsp fresh)
thyme ¼ tsp
Brown sugar

Melted the butter in frying pan & sautéd the onions with the rosemary & thyme & brown sugar till clear & soft. Apparently according to the recipe I was supposed to add the spices & sugar at the end (after I was done w/ the onions) but I was in a hurry & in typical fashion didn’t read the recipe properly. OK, well…big deal!

On to the Scones:

Flour 3 c.
Sugar 1 tbsp
B. Powder 4 tsp
B. Soda 1/2 tsp
Salt ½ tsp
Oregano 1 tsp
Basil ¼ tsp
Garlic Powder ¼ tsp
Butter or Margarine 6 tbsp

1 egg
1 c milk

This part was simple, in typical biscuit/scone fashion. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, cut butter till crumbly. Add beaten egg & milk stir & make soft dough. Here’s the part where I had to deviate from the recipe. It claimed you could kneed it 8-10 times, on a floured surface,--- NO WAY!! I just had to add 1/3 c more flour & then turn it over in the bowl & put heaping spoonfuls (@ 2 heaping tbsp per scone) on the baking try about 2 cm apart. Preheat oven to 220c for 20-25 min makes about 15-18 scones. And there you have it. Not the best lookers, I'll admit, but they sure tasted great!

Ah, and of course here comes the professional “goof up” part of the recipe. I did not grease the baking pan & had a rather mortifying time trying to pry these babies off of the pan, while the kids were sitting at the table banging their plates with their silverware & singing rounds of “Oh-Thank-you-Jesus” in keys A-G at various tempos (just to remind me they were waiting). At least that’s how it seemed to me. But all in all, I liked these, and I would make them again. Definitely would recommend adding these to a simple chicken or beef stew meal. Just the kinda thing to have on a cold winter day!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Last Birthday Cake of the Year

Here's Travis' 4th B'day cake. It was the 2nd Lightning McQueen cake I had to make. Although I abhor encouraging the whole obsession with one particular animation character I couldn't help it with this cake. I've only had to make 2 "decorated" cakes this "birthday season". So I was willing to take it on. The two girls opted for pies for their birthday. Lani, raspberry cheesecake & Ashley, Lemon Meringue. So that made my job a lot easier this year.

I'm really not one for originality when it comes to cakes. Take for example this one, c/o Fay (I'm assuming) look at it. It's a virtual movie set. Check out the car wreck, in the middle. Pure genius. Well, in any case.. Hat's off to all mommies who juggle Birthday hysteria & cake decorating too.
All I can do is the-color-by-number-type cake. Well, in any case, he liked it. Thank God I have black food coloring from the US.

Note to all concerned mothers: Don't ever let your little 3 year old hyperactive boys watch a movie that says "I AM SPEED" for it's opening line. You & everyone else you live with will regret it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


How to make your Happo-Jappo girl happy in 3 easy steps:

Step 1: Make some Japanese rice (Koshi no Hikari would be ideal) in a rice cooker….pleeeease don’t try any of that, frying the Japanese rice “business” it’s just not right!
Step 2: Purchase some salmon fish eggs. This will cost you about as much as your left pinkie. (but really who needs one of those)
Step 3: Mix the salmon fish eggs with the rice in a ceramic rice bowl & offer with real wooden lacquered chopsticks. (OK, waribashi, will do fine in a pinch)

And you’ve made yourself a friend for life. Or at least you can be my friend, if you follow these three easy steps.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007



Something about “soup & scones” makes me feel that winter is decidedly here to stay. Well, it’s here for a while at least & we might as well make a day of it. I have to say it’s one of my favorite cooking seasons of all.

Somehow Cream of Celery became one of my family’s favorite soups. It started when my Canadian brother in law declared that his mom makes the best Cream of Celery. (I shall not contest) So I wanted to give it a try. I was sadly the only one in my family who liked celery before this. So I dug around & found a recipe or two, tweeked it & of course, forgot the recipe all together, but just ended up making it how I like it. So if you don’t like my recipe…..tweek it, forget I ever said anything & enjoy your own private soup!

This estimation made a generous amount for 12 ppl

So…Off we go! First off grab:
a hunk of celery (normally expensive in Japan but husband found a great place where it’s cheap)
A few cloves of garlic (adjust according to your audience)
An onion (mine was smaller than I’d like)
3 bay leaves
3 bullion cubes
Salt & pepper
Butter (or margarine, if you must) a few tbsps. I used between 4-5, I think

Chop the celery & onion coarsely, (we’re gonna blend it later anyway) leaves or no leaves from the celery. (I personally like some of the leaves in there as it add the greenness. Smash & peel the garlic. (believe it or not there are some people who don’t know that trick)

Melt the butter & saute the onion, garlic, celery & bay leaves on med-low for about 10 min. Next, shoo away everyone who comes to the kitchen thinking you’re making stuffing. Gosh-golly, that just looks real purty-like to me!

Now while the celery-business is sautéing put about 3-4 cups of water into your soup pot & bring to a boil & add your bullion cubes. (I’m sure for all you westerners, using canned chicken soup stock would work just great too but here in Nippon, we have no such thing for a Godly price, Amen?)

Next, let’s put about 1 tsp of salt & ½ a tsp of pepper. I’ve cheated & put some Celery Salt in there too. But I guess that’s kinda stupid cuz’ the whole point of that is to make your food taste more like celery. Hmm!!

Next, we shall dump the celery mixture (bay leaves too) into the simmering stock & leave that for a good 5-10 min. And then we’ll let it cool for a bit before we put some of the liquid & all of the veggies (NOT the bay leaves, please people) into the blender. Don’t try it boiling hot, unless you want a nasty surprise we shall call “Exploding Pain of Celery Soup Surprise”. Now, I like it really smooth (no innuendos) so I blend that for a min. or so. Ain’t that just the greenest stuff you ever did see?

Then it’s all back into the pot. Add about 2 cups or more of milk. Pls. don’t let it boil as that kinda changes the texture after the milk is put in & the taste too. And you’re done!! Serve hot. No one likes a cold soup. At least I don’t! And volia! If you’re feeling like being really un-healthy & really yummy, up your butter content & put actual “cream”, not more than ½ a c. at the end.

Well, that’s all I have time for today, as the monsters are loose in the chicken coop, but “PART 2 of Soup & Scones” will obviously tell the tale of the scones. Until then keep your toes toasty warm & your spatula in hand.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wakey Wakey!!!

Howdy there!

I woke up one chilly autumn morning & decided that when you’re a busy mom with 6 nut-nuts the 2nd best thing to do besides take a shower is….....resurrect your dead blog. Maybe it was the prospect of Christmas dinner approaching, or an acquaintance who asked “whatever happened to your food blog?” or maybe it was looking at my foodie pics folder that got me thinking about blogging.

This will purely be a “foodie blog.” I hope any lonely cooks will find this a gentle haven with Godly recipes and alarming proposals to wake the dead at your table. I cook breakfast, lunch & dinner for a table of 11, with a spatula in one hand, a baby in the sling & a 5th, 3rd & 2nd grader at the counter. Sigh! Needless to say, posts may be few & far between.

And now since I have no failed experiments to rant about…here are some foodie pics for your pleasure.

"Little Green Fairy" muffins. (Yes, the frosting had Absinthe in it)
Caraway Bread

Chocolate cake for my Dad's B'day with Sour-cream frosting Apple Pie!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Andre Bocheli sings.....Timmmmmmmeeee tooooooo say goood bye.

Dear faithful readers of “Not By Bread Alone”, my humble blog of science. The time has come for me to take my leave of blogging. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, it was a wonderful experience & I hope you enjoyed the little nibblet into my life. For personal reasons I won’t be blogging anymore. Thank you for your sweet comments, encouragement & friendship. And if you ever need a good recipe for broccoli & strawberry pancake surprise you know who to email. As much as I love blogging about food it has come to my attention that it is not by bread alone……….

So, have a good one & catch you around. Mucho love. Al’ the Pal!

PS. Thank you for removing me from your links if you have added me. Thanks! Have good one.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Meditate on that!

Henceforth, I shall away myself to 3 days of feasting…………………..

….............feasting upon the much needed dosage of the precious triple espresso of God’s potent power. Hit me up!!

See you soon.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pop QUIZ!!!

I have tried to restrain myself from doing this but I cannot hold back any longer. Ready?

What is Mick Jagger's favorite Japanese Meal?


Come on. Flo, Masa & Chala are thinking this is funny.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Chala Bing, Otanjobi Omedeto!!

Happy Birthday to a sweet 17 year old. We love you Chala! And we are praying that you have a wonderful year. The kids thought you would come to the gym so they all went but you weren’t there. Oh well! I’m praying for you & know that the Lord will work all things together for good because you love Him. XXX Kisses of love to the best Chala-bing-chala-bang I know! Hope you don’t mind the pictures.

This picture is to prove the theory that Chala seems to attract the “crazy-colorful-&-weird-clothing-that-others-would-look-awful-in-but-they-seem-to-suit-her-quite-nicely” type of clothing. (All of the clothes in the picture below were actual Christmas presents to her. Note: the "gloves" are toe socks", the socks, are orange & have a green pepper on them & actually say, “EAT THE PEPPER” on them, c/o Mark) We rabu rabu you!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Coconut Creme Pie

Elaina made this lovely pie for Mark’s 22nd birthday. I believe this picture is from the time that I made one for his 20th. I'm starting to think that Mark likes coconut creme pie.
The above variety has a meringue topping & toasted coconuts. Here’s the recipe for the one Elaina made. See the picture bellow, and I will confirm that this is a goddess of a pie, cream on crème with just enough coconut to give it something to write home about.

1 9” Baked pie crust (again a cookie crust is easier but a baked traditional crust is better if you want a meringue topping)

4 large egg yolks, beaten (in a medium sized bowl)
½ c sugar
¼ c cornstarch
½ tsp salt
3 c milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla (or almond essence)
1 c flaked coconut (keep ¼ of this aside for topping)
1 c whipped cream (to top, or use 3 egg whites from the 4 above to make a meringue with ¼ c sugar added 1 tbsp at a time till you have stiff peaks, cover pie & bake for 3-4 min at 200c, or till golden brown)

The process for a cream pie is pretty standard. Cook the milk, cornstarch & sugar till boiling in a 2L saucepan, boil for 1 min, mix ½ into the egg yolks till blended, put the yolk mixture back into the saucepan & bring it to a boil for another minute. Take off the stove add butter, vanilla & ¾ c coconut. Pour into shell, cover filling with saran wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hrs, till set. Add whip cream or meringue topping, sprinkle with toasted coconut & eat with great gusto & joy.

Note: if you’ve got bananas then go for the “banana crème” variation. Nix the coconut. Slice 2 bananas into the bottom of the pie crust before pouring in the filling. Top with whip cream & more banana slices. (if you can handle that much banana)

Better yet turn it into a chocolate crème pie. Add a few tbsp coco powder in the first step, 2 extra tbsp of sugar & 1 extra tbsp of butter. TADA!!! Stop me please, before I get carried away!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Flo, look what your comment made me do!

As I was making dinner today I was listening to Steve’s new album & rather than getting into the grove of it like I should have been, I found myself (motherly person that I am) previewing, (is that “pre-listening”) to it for Travis. Flojo-Mojo did just pose the question to me, “ Has Trav has heard Steve’s new album yet”. You see, birds of the same zodiac sign….fly in a……. shape resembling a pair of weight scales?? (Hmm…Bygones) OK, what I mean is, I have been giving that topic some thought all afternoon. Is Steve really good for my son? Well, as I type, my deluded son at this moment indeed banging on two pink containers & using two pink plastic ice-cream scoopers as drum sticks & he is carrying on a conversation with me that goes something like this:

Travis: (sings in a soft sweet voice with concerned eyebrows) “Do or dieeeeee, that’s our cryyyyyyyy aiiiiiiii” Mommy, who sings “Do or Die”? Is it Steve?
Mommy: (typing) No, Travster that’s Chesco
Trav: Oh, Chesco, the one that sings BOB?
Mommy: No, he produced BOB, but Abe sang it
Trav: Who’s Abe?
Mommy: You don’t know him he’s Iven’s brother
Trav: Does Iven sing a song?
Mommy: (clickty click, sigh) Maybe Trav
Trav: You know mommy, I did use to be a niddle tiny baby, so tiny I was dis tiny, dat I was not a big man. But now I am big because I wear sweaters nike Steve & play guitar nike Jesse, right?
Mom: (No answer)
Trav: Mommy, Steve’s drummer is Momo, right?
Mommy: SIGH!!! No, Trav, TOMO, not Momo, momo is a peach.
Trav: Mom, dats funny, Tomo is not a peach.
Trav: (Screaming) DO OR DIEEEEEE, THAT’S OUR CRYYYYYYYYYY. You set us FREEEEEEEEEEE. (glasses on top of stereo break)

I try to stay away from using the really low propaganda tactics like: “Steve can sing really well because he eats his ingen” or, “Steve goes to sleep at night so that he can have enough energy to scream”. But I do like the thought that unlike secular stars of the music world, my son gets to meet & hang out with his role models and will quickly see that Steve neither eats his ingen nor does he go to sleep at night, in fact, he probobly only screams because he doesn't go to bed at night.

To wrap this up here’s a wonderful “Etch & Sketch” masterpiece that I drew for Trav. It is obviously, none other than Steve. I personally think it would have made a lovely CD cover for Heavenly Music, Right? Note the attractive goatee & stratigically messy hair? Come on, do you know how hard, it is to draw on one of those things?
Poor Steve, I know he’d cringe if he saw this post. Well, that’s not my fault he’s the one who decided make music that 3 year old Travsters like.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Blasty-Blast pics of the kids

Oh-boy, I am what one would call a happy camper. My keitai which has been faithfully storing pictures of mediocre quality has finally found a mini-SD card so that it might deliver it’s precious cargo to my computer. Really, I’m stoked!!

I shall begin to "share the love" by posting some pics of the kids over the last 2 months. Dozo tanoshinde kudasai!(Ashley), Ryan (5) & Leilani (9) Christmas Witnessing in ChibaLaner! My my, aren’t we grown up!
This picture alarms me. Ryan is playing a race car game at Tepco. Note the intense look on his flushed little face. He was getting all competitive & sweaty just playing a few minutes of this.

This pic typifies the “special” cousin-relationship that Travis & Shelly have:

Mark: Let’s pray for our walk
Shelly: I’m a pretty pink princess-girl
Travis: No you NOT Shelly, I’m a handsome boy like Steve.
This is the older 3 kids’ mosaic that we made over Christmas school break. They worked very hard & patiently on it. The ‘plastic smiles’ they are sporting reflect their joy at having their pictures taken. Ah, a classic Japanese Christmas Tree (Before extra attention from mommy). I promised someone I would post this decrepid picture. Our very own “kids decorated” tree. Complete with kid-made ornaments. Mark’s description is precise & painful. “Wow, it looks just like the trees at all the Japanese old folks homes I've been to. They take it out of the box with the same decorations still on it from the year before, whack it on the floor a few times stand it up & throw some cotton on it & “VOILA” a Japanese Christmas Tree.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised that a boy who loves to eat as much as Trav would also like to cook. I try to involve him when I can with various jobs in the kitchen. He really lives for it. He's attentive & loves to hear about every detail.
Ryan & Ashley’s friends, Miharu & Leina from the “Hello, Hello” Video experience. (Don’t ask!)

That's it for pics of the offspring. Foodie posts coming soon when I get the time. Finally my foodie pics from my keitai are available. Can't write about food without pics. I'm formulating thoughts about, desserts, breads, muffins & mixed drinks.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Eggplant a-la-Salada

Here’s something for all you beri-genki nasu fans out there.

Now, I'd like to give credit where credit is due, this recipe is just my take on a salad that was made originally for me by Keiko. She helped start me on the road to reconsiliation as far as my rocky relationship with nasu is concerned. Up until then we were not on speaking terms other than the occasional very crispy & well made tempura nasu. My version of course, is most inferior compared to hers, as Keiko added the famous Baysidian secret weapon of “Thai Sauce”. (Secret no longer, mwwah hah!)

Masa: Ah-ha it’s sandwiches for lunch, bring out the Thai sauce
Keiko: Ohhh, it’s salad for dinner, bring out the Thai sauce
Benny: Mmm…it’s dried fishies for snack, bring out the Thai sauce

OK, so I personally don’t use the Thai sauce for this, call me traditional but I don't really like adding it to "Italian food", unless you can't notice it, (except, eh hum, Italian dressing...heh! Shh, don't tell Michael I told you, just a tbsp or 2.). But you can if it works for you. Here’s my take :

6-7 smaller eggplants
oil for frying
¼ c olive oil
5 garlic cloves, sliced
1 dry red pepper
a few strips of bacon, cut into 1cm strips
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato or 2, diced
salt & pepper
2-3 tbsp vinegar (red wine, or balsamico if you like it)
basil (fresh is even better)
Parmesan cheese

Preparation: Chop the eggplant 1 cm thick soak in salt water for 10 min. Drain & fry with oil on med/low heat till browned on both sides. (eggplant=sponge, you really need to add some oil to get it to “caramelize” on the outside, keep the flame low) lay eggplant on flat dish. Fry up bacon strips, set aside, fry up garlic & red pepper in oil.

(ideally you should let the garlic soak in the olive oil for quite awhile before frying) keep the heat low, turn off the heat right when the edges start to brown, let the garlic soak & discard the pepper)

Now for the assembly: Sprinkle bacon over eggplant, next onion, diced tomatoes, & spoon garlic & the garlic/olive oil & vinegar over it all. Salt & pepper to taste (my taste: LIBERALLY) & basil. Lastly sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Note: This salad is a sooo purrty & great served cold, so make it in advance. A bed of lettuce would give a great presentation, I'd imagine & could probobly turn it into a main salad rather than a side dish.
Also, I wouldn’t say you need every ingredient on here, but I would have to say the onion, garlic & tomato are pretty essential. You can of course try other toppings: thin red & yellow paprika slices, sautéed mushrooms, black olives or, of course…….THAI SAUCE!!

PS: Pictures (random & hurried) by Al'
Dish: Iven & Kari & home, Yippie! Thank you so much for the dish set, again!