A big fan of Italian food, I was intrigued by Zagat Presents event on February 29 – A Taste of Puglia – and was excited to learn I’d be going thanks to Google New York. I was familiar with Tuscany, having been there and some of the outlying areas, as well as Rome, but that is about the extent of my knowledge of the country. Everything was from Puglia, including the wine. I can’t say I’ve had a Puglian wine before, but everything I had there was quite good. Since then, I’ve noticed restaurants or wine bars with an extensive selection do carry some. Worth trying. I’m a big fan of Primitivo and the Verdeca and Negroamaro were excellent as well.

The event took place at the DeGustibus Cooking School, a space tucked into one of the top floors of the large Macy’s building in Herald Square. You have to know where you are going to find this unlabeled space, just a slight turn away from their extensive women’s suit section. The class was with Laura Giordano. She did the cooking portion and her husband spoke to the wines throughout the meal. They were both very knowledgeable but presented the content in a way so that it was very relatable. Perfect balance.

Laura Giordano, taking questions

Laura Giordano, taking questions

Our menu was light and fresh even though several of the elements were fried. We had:

  • Polpette di Melanzane – eggplant balls
  • Orecchiette alla crudaiola – pasta with raw tomatoes, basil, and ricotta salata
  • Salsicce di Maiale al vino bianco – pork sausages cooked with white wine
  • Zucchine alla poverella – zucchini, mint, garlic, and balsamic vinegar
  • Zeppole di S. Giuseppe – cream puff filled with custard cream and garnished with black cherry jam

The eggplant balls were actually one of the standouts for me. That’s the dish I need to finally make before too long, as I haven’t had anything quite like it before. The recipe below should yield approximately 30 eggplant balls.

  • 3-4 big eggplants
  • Parmiggiano cheese or Pecorino (if you use Pecorino, it’s saltier so definitely don’t add more salt)
  • Finely grated bread crumbs (enough for the mixing and coating)
  • 2-3 eggs (2 should be enough)
  • Fresh mint, basil, or parsley
  • Garlic (optional, we used about a clove of garlic in our version and it was a nice addition)

Cut the eggplant into big cubes and boil them in water for about 7-8 minutes. When they are done, they should be about as soft as when cubed potatoes are when they are finished. Pour into a colander and let them sit for about an hour to drain the excess water.

Later squeeze them by hands and start with the mixing ingredients. Collect the mixture into a bowl, combine the eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, a pinch of salt, pepper and your choice of herb leaves. Mix the ingredients well and shape them into meatballs.

Dip each meatball in the beaten egg first and then the breadcrumbs and let them sit in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes.

Begin to warm oil in a fryer. The oil is ready when you dip the handle of a wooden spoon and bubbles form around its edges. Deep fry the meatballs in hot sunflower oil and once brown and crunchy outside, place them on a big plate covered with a paper towel. Serve immediately while warm.

Finished Eggplant

Finished Eggplant

So small. So simple. So good!

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