Connecticut Capers

Covered Bridge, West Cornwall, CT

Among the boldface names we did not visit in Cornwall, CT were actors, Oliver Platt and Sam Waterston, or composer Tom Jones. We did spend time with a friend who owns a very old, lovingly restored house with a huge meadow out back, a perfect setting from which to watch the sunset.

Cornwall  dates to 1783 when the land was auctioned off and named after an English county.  The town was incorporated in 1740 and has a history of missionary work in the Sandwich Islands. During the 1820s,  the marriage of two local girls to Indians attending Cornwall’s Foreign Mission School led to a near riot and the school was closed. The town’s history is well documented in the small Cornwall Historical Society on Pine Street.

One of our weekend activities was a visit to the Saturday Farmer’s Market where Carol Bonci sells many kinds of bread including gluten-free loaves that taste surprisingly good.

Carol Bonci with one of her baguettes


I could happily go to a Farmer’s Market every day of the week if only to see the gorgeous vegetables and flowers. We also went to an all-Cornwall rummage sale where I scored a Dust Buster in A-1 condition for $8 for my daughter whose own DB recently gave up the ghost. We biked, we read, we considered swimming but never quite got there, we visited the Cornwall Country Store now under new ownership, and man did we eat! One night, our host grilled an assortment of sweet and hot Italian sausages, red onion and a vibrant orange pepper which was accompanied by potato salad topped with sliced tomatoes and a dish of feta and olives for a beautiful Mediterranean supper.

most of our Mediterranean medley

The first night we dined on Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan that I made using a Mark Bittman recipe with some minor tweaks. Mr. Bittman is my culinary hero—every recipe I’ve ever made following his instructions turns out perfectly and he never starts  by suggesting that you must incorporate “two persimmons grown on the southern end of Crete.” Everybody now… join in a chorus of “Pretentious, Pretentious” to the tune of “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof.

Here is the recipe with fervent thanks to Mark Bittman.

Eggplant and Chicken Parmesan Mark Bittman

Serves about 6

1-2 eggplants (about 2 pounds total), unpeeled, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1/2 pound boneless, skinless white meat chicken (breast, cutlets, or tenders), pounded to uniform thickness if necessary and blotted dry
4 cups All-Purpose Tomato Sauce (I cheated and used ready made)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves
2 ounces grated or torn mozzarella cheese
1 cup bread crumbs

  1. If the eggplant is particularly large or full of seeds, sprinkle it with salt and set in a colander for at least 15 and up to 60 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. (I simply sliced it and moved on.)
  2. Heat the oven to 400.
  3. Brush the eggplant lightly on both sides with some oil and sprinkle with salt (if you didn’t salt it earlier) and pepper. Grill or broil until browned on both sides, turning once or twice and brushing with more oil if the eggplant looks dry. The idea is to keep the eggplant cooking steadily without burning, so adjust the heat and position as needed. The eggplant is usually ready in somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. When done, set eggplant slices aside.
  4. Cut the chicken so you have 8 or so large pieces. Pound or press them a bit so they’re evenly flat. (Or don’t  bother–I didn’t.) Brush them all over with some oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill or broil the chicken, turning once, no more than 3 minutes per side (to check for doneness, cut into a piece with a thin-bladed knife; the center should still be slightly pink). Set the chicken aside.
  5. Lightly oil a 2-quart baking dish, then spoon a layer of tomato sauce, a layer of eggplant slices, a layer of chicken, some Parmesan and repeat until all the ingredients are used. (There may be sauce left over; warm it up to pass at the table.) Toss the remaining Parmesan with the bread crumbs and the mozzarella. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again. Spread the bread crumb/cheese mixture evenly on top of the dish. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the dish is bubbling hot. Serve hot or warm, topped with the basil leaves which I tore into a chiffonade (small pieces torn across the leaf.)

Pour a nice glass of wine and enjoy dinner.


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3 Responses to Connecticut Capers

  1. Elinor Spalten says:

    Mari, thanks for all your great recipes. What a beautiful spread. I do so much miss the New England states.

    Fondly, Elinor