Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pasta Melanzane

I first had Pasta Melanzane at a wonderful restaurant near my home in Wiesbaden, Germany. We were always looking for the best Italian restaurant we could find, and when we found Marcello’s, we stopped looking. No matter what we ate there, the food was delicious. Melanzane, by the way, means eggplant, or aubergine. I always use that word because a lot of people think they don’t like eggplant.

I tried hard to duplicate Marcello’s Pasta Melanzane, but the more I added, the weirder it would get. In the end, my very best results came from keeping things simple and fresh:

Pasta Melanzane

1 fairly large eggplant, cut into fingers about 1/2 inch, like french fries
6 – 10 cloves of garlic, peeled, chopped
olive oil
2 packets / small cans tomato paste
1 Tablespoon (1 large glop) finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
(red pepper flakes – optional)
water to thin

Put the eggplant fingers in a colander (bowl shaped strainer) and sprinkle with salt. Leave half an hour, rinse with water and dry with paper towels. You do this because sometimes eggplant can be bitter, and this takes away the bitterness.

Put some olive oil – maybe 2 Tablespoons – in a deep frying pan and heat, add chopped garlic and heat until garlic is softened. If you are using red pepper flakes, add those in now, too, and let them soften with the garlic.

Add the eggplant fingers, turn the heat way down, add a little more olive oil and cook slowly until the eggplant is also softened all the way through.

Meanwhile, mix the tomato paste, chopped sun dried tomato pieces, and some water into sauce.

(If you are in a place where you can legally use red wine, you can use a cup or so in place of some of the water. I have also used pomegranate juice, but it is not quite the same.)

Add the sauce to the eggplant, put on a spatter guard (You can find them at the Sultan Center and sometimes in the souks – they are a round screen with a handle that keeps sauce from splashing all over your stove) and turn the gas down to the very lowest it will go.

Set the timer for 30 minutes, and go about your business. Keep checking every 30 minutes, give it a stir, add a little more liquid if it needs it, give it a taste.

When it is ready, turn the burner off. This sauce just gets better and better as it mellows.

When it is time to serve dinner, boil a pot of pasta and re-heat the melanzane sauce at the same time. Because it is a strong sauce, you can use strong pastas, like penne, to serve it over.

June 28, 2008 Posted by | Cooking, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Germany, Kuwait, Recipes | , , , | 6 Comments

Chongwe River Camp, Zambezi, Zambia

I used to be such an organized person. I had a responsible job where I juggled many important things. I had meetings and messages, and events and proposal deadlines, and somehow, I did it all, and I did it well.

Now that I have somewhat less to handle, I don’t handle it as well. I am too relaxed. I don’t obsess about details, I don’t wake up in the middle of the night gasping about something I may have forgotten, I don’t even keep a notepad by the side of my bed to write things down that wake me in the night.

When I was making arrangements for this trip, AdventureMan said to add on a few days at the Chongwe River Lodge, so I told the travel guy at Robin Pope Safaris to book us at the Chongwe River Lodge. Then, I just paid what the invoice said and never thought about it again. If you go to the RPS page, it will show you Chongwe River HOUSE, and that is where we thought we were staying. When we arrived, we were a little disconcerted to discover we were at the Chongwe River Camp, not the house, but our tent/cabin faced a pod of hippos, and we were immediately enchanted, and sometimes things happen for a reason, you know? We knew we were there for a reason, and just relaxed and enjoyed what the camp had to offer.

And oh, WOW, what the camp had to offer. First, every tent is situated to have a fabulous view, and the front of the tent is all clear net, you CAN close it if you want to, but you don’t have to, you have absolute privacy with on one looking in. They have a wide range of activities, lots of water sports, fishing, kayaking, hiking, fly camping . . . so much to do! Or . . . you can do nothing at all, too.

Our view overlooked a pod of hippos. All day and all night long, we could hear hippos. In the middle of the night, a hippo mom and a baby hippo were grazing two feet from the entrance to our tent – when I got up to watch, they quickly slipped back into the water.

That might disturb some people, but it totally enchants me! I was told some people get grumpy because they can’t sleep, that they request earplugs . . . I cannot imagine. I love the sounds, and somehow, it makes me feel safer inside knowing wild things are roaming around at night. I’ve always felt human beings were the far more dangerous threat than the animals.

So I will bore you with a bunch of photos, and you will see the things I love – details of the tents and lounge and dining areas, and photos that I wish had sound attached so you could be lulled to sleep by the laughter of the hippos.

This is the Chongwe River airport:

This is the airstrip we flew into – you can see elephant dung all over the strip, but there were no elephants on the strip when we flew in:

Zambia was experiencing a huge airplane fuel crisis while we were there, so flights were being consolidated. One night, there was NO fuel at any of the major airfields. Here us the fuel storage at Chongwe:

This is my idea of camping – king size bed, good sheets, a great bathroom and a great view of hippos:

The bathroom! Can you see why I enjoy camping so much? The shower has a European style flash heater – so practical, and you get hot water in a heartbeat without burning a lot of trees.

Storage/clothing shelves in the bedroom. Rooms come with flashlights, insect repellant sprays, and a whistle in case you feel in danger:

Dining in the bush – and the food was great. Because it is the middle of winter in Zambia, nights can be chilly, and we had charcoal braziers between diners at night to keep us from shivering. It was toasty warm! When we would get back to our tents, there would be hot water bottles warming our beds, so we could just jump in.

The coffee/tea/hot chocolate bar, with French press Zambian coffee, yummmmm:

This is how the camp would look at night when we would come back from a game drive or a boating trip – purely magic, with all the twinkling candles. The camp offers fishing, hiking, game drives, kayaking, all kinds of activities, or . . . just chilling:

This is the lounge area and library in the daytime:

These are “my” hippos – oh, this just made my time at Chongwe River Camp, hearing their laughter, hearing their arguements. Just up the river all the animals would come down to drink at dusk. I could sit and take photos and never intrude on them – warthogs, impala, elephant, waterbuck, geese, heron, egret, ibis . . . and lots of baboon.

We saw everything on our game drives, but I will start with the great Kudu, because finding a male kudu not shyly running away is a great treat:

I think this lion finds tourists boring – he and his wives endured our presence for about 45 minutes before ambling off to another shady glen:

This was a great thrill for me – an elephant swimming to one of the Zambezi islands. Don’t worry, I was using my great telephoto, I was not that close. We did not bother the elephant, we kept our distance.

Here is the big guy safely on his island:

And just look at this guy! He was a big as a HUMMER! Our guide said he had seen even bigger on the Zambezi. (gulp!)

June 28, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Photos, Travel, Weather, Zambia | , , , , , | 16 Comments