We probably have a few fogeys, every neighborhood does, but on the other hand, over the course of many years, I have always counted among my top blessings as having one of the truly best neighborhoods in the world. Mostly, it has really been a place sprinkled with amazing friends.
More than a place where one can borrow a cup of sugar on a whim, or politely just say Hello, it’s a crazy thing really, for within this community, even among some neighbors I may be out of contact with for years, but when I look back on the memories of my life, those memories shared in special moments, these very people, neighbors, continue on a special list in my heart of those I shall always consider dear friends.
Perhaps our children eventually went to different schools, participated in different activities, some may have become busier in business pursuits, or involved in varied social activities, others may even have moved away, been relocated over the years, but each connects us to a special moment of time, a celebration, a joy, even a suffering, these many things that we at some moment have each specially shared together. This community has always been so much more than just a neighborhood, its people so much more than simply neighbors. Its core, the home of friendship.
I was recently reminded of this in a rather profound way when one of these special friend, neighbors, recently took ill, and all within me was compelled for her care. Admittedly, I was rather in hysteria seeing her in such tremendous pain. We spent a lot of time together as our children were growing up, eventually only seeing each other for a few lunches a year. It was an irony in our recent contact, which happened to be about food, that landed us back together at this particular time when twenty-three years ago, I was also joining her for testing in another health ailment. What fate is that after all these years bringing us together again at this very time?
As we sat together on the hospital bed while visiting, something very special occurred, it was not about the memories of raising our children, strings concerts, or the children’s holiday caroling followed by hot chocolate and treats in the past, it was about the now, this moment. It is one of those reasons I shared that keeps each of these neighbors, more importantly, friends, on that forever list as if on permanent speed dial.
My dear friend, my neighbor, is now recuperating and will be home tomorrow or the next day and she will be fine. Maybe we will have more lunches together now, maybe we won’t, our bond however, is inextricable.
As some younger generations of families move into our neighborhood with small children, I find myself in such great delight whenever seeing them gather together, children playing, parents having a beer, celebrating with a barbecue, maybe even sharing some impromptu meal like Cheesy Roasted Eggplant Pie, Tomatoes, Basil, or a tended steamy slow cooker meal prepared for all to join together on a cold snowy night.
Eventually some may go to different schools, be involved in different activities, their families become further involved in business pursuits, or involvement in varying social activities. But for right now, these moments are their building blocks. In seeing these together, I am always inspired in making them a special secret wish, that very same continuance of neighborhood bonding, one that endures, the magical intangible that keeps them each tied together in friendship, always in each other’s hearts. The neighborhood they now live in, one that has always been about far more than borrowing a mere cup of sugar on a whim, or just saying hello, its core, the home of friendship.
- 2 eggplants, sliced into half inch rounds
- 1/4 cup, or a bit more, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 12 vine ripened tomatoes, cut in half, squeezed lightly to remove seeds, chopped
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
- coarse kosher salt
- cracked black pepper
- 12 or more fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
- 4-6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds then cut in half
- 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch ceramic pie dish. Sprinkle mozzarella pieces lightly with pinches of salt and some cracked black pepper. Pour a thin layer of olive oil across 2 baking sheets, place eggplant slices evenly across pans lightly coating slices, turn over slices, lightly coating the other side of the eggplant. Sprinkle tops with light pinches of salt and place into the oven. Cook eggplant until tender, around 35 minutes, remove from oven. Meanwhile on very low temperature, heat a saute pan deep enough to hold the tomatoes, pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil, swirl to cover pan then add in garlic. Cook garlic for a minute or so just to soften, then tumble in tomatoes, increase heat to medium high, cooking to reduce some of the pan liquid before adding in the red wine, stir and continue cooking until tomato liquid has mostly reduced, sprinkle over a couple pinches each salt and pepper, stir, check seasoning. Turn off heat, fold through fresh parsley. Ladle fresh cooked tomatoes sauce in the bottom of the greased pie dish, top with cooked eggplant slices all around the bottom. Spoon some cooked tomatoes on top of the eggplant layering with mozzarella pieces, a good sprinkling around Parmesan cheese and some fresh basil strips. Repeat the layers using the sauce, eggplant, mozzarella, Parmesan, and fresh basil strips reserving a few basil strips for garnish once eggplant pie is cooked for serving. Top pie decoratively with some spoons of sauce in between mozzarella slices before finishing with Parmesan. Any excess juices from the tomatoes may be carefully poured out of the pie dish, wipe pie dish clean all around. Cover filled dish of eggplant pie with aluminum foil and place onto a baking sheet. Bake Cheesy Roasted Eggplant Pie for an hour until bubbling hot, the skin of the eggplant is soft, and cheese is melted all around. Remove foil and broil top for a couple minutes until cheese begins turning a golden color. Let Pie set for ten minutes before cutting. Garnish with fresh strips of basil.