Please sit down and share with me a slice of this juicy Lasagna de Berenjenas (Beef and Eggplant Casserole), and let me tell you about our latest adventure.
A few months back I shared with you our adventures crossing our country from corner to corner: North by Northwest – From PuntaCana to Montecristi. This week we arrived after undertaking the same trip again.
So, what’s with us and the trips to Montecristi?
Well, I was born in Montecristi. It’s where our family tree has its roots. And last weekend we did what we haven’t been able to do in almost half a decade: get our whole family together, some of us traveled from farther than others, but it was well-worth it.
If you’ve never visited Montecristi, then I invite you to do it. I’ve never seen any other part of our country with such dramatic sunsets. The usual portrait of the Dominican republic as a lush country with white sand beaches is turned on its head here. The food (it all comes down to food with us), is nothing to sneer at either.
Ironically, while the offer for tourists has improved with the years, the city itself has deteriorated at a much faster pace. I always compare Montecristi with an old spinster from a once, long ago wealthy family, still wearing the regal dresses–now in tatters–holding her head high, even if she is as poor as a church mouse.
It’s like living archeology.
With a vegetation and climate that can only be found in another part of the country (Azua), and a cuisine that has its own distinctive dishes and flavors, it completes the culinary portrait of our country.
Although we were not strangers to it, we had the opportunity to rediscover one of the city culinary jewels: the half a century-old Restaurant Cocomar. A place that looks a lot like the town, with its mixture of old and new: a haphazard decoration consisting of marine-inspired objects and antiquities that seemed pulled out of our grandma’s attics. It still is oddly calming and familiar. It feels like visiting a relative.
The servers are familiar too. We recognized faces we’ve seen for years, the menu is still the same–but why change a good thing? In fact, you are free to ignore the menu, as we did when we ordered breakfast one day. We asked for, and were served a gigantic platter of mangu, accompanied by another, even more gigantic platter of salami frito, queso frito, huevos fritos y revueltos.
I can tell you that this is good, no-frills Dominican fare.
And speaking of good, no-frills Dominican fare, lasagna de berenjenas isn’t as common as the other most popular casseroles in our cuisine, but it is always welcome on the table.
Try it, you’ll love it!
- 2 lb lean beef minced [0.9 kg]
- 1 1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
- 12 tsp pepper (or more, to taste)
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 onion diced into very small cubes
- 1 green pepper diced into very small cubes
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon basil finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 large eggplants sliced thinly
- 1 cup of mozzarella cheese
Season the meat with 1½ teaspoon salt, pepper, garlic, onions, green pepper, and oregano. In a shallow pan heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the ground beef and brown. Add water and tomato sauce. Simmer over medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated.
Season with salt to taste and add basil. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Preheat oven at 200 °C [400 °F].
Cover the bottom of a medium-size square (or rectangular) baking pan with the oil. Place inside a layer consisting of half the eggplants on the baking pan and cover with the filling. Cover with the remaining eggplants.
Cover baking pan with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.
Uncover, sprinkle with the cheese and return to oven until the cheese has turned golden brown. Cool for a couple of minutes before serving. Best served with salad.