This year who knows if I'll see the sea (well, I'll see it, but who knows if I'll spend some time there), my beloved sea: Baudelaire said "free man, you will always cherish the sea", and I totally agree with him.

So, in a not-so-hot summer in the city, having the holidays in town of artistic interest and European capitals (one, actually) in sight, I had to fight my nostalgia for the sea with something, and I chose boats that remind me of the sea … even if they are eggplant boats, or cockleshells … I'm satisfied with very little, after all!

This dish since about a year now has become a classic in my kitchen, a different and tasty way to serve the beloved eggplants .. and now that summer offers so much basil, these cockleshells are even more fragrant, fresh (although the baking … but you can also eat them warm or cold) and delicious.

For this post I have to thank two men: my dad who took the pictures (I cook and someone else eats, but at least takes the pictures) and my friend Raffa's grandfather: I don't know him personally, but from him came the idea for this recipe (only knowing that eggplant and scamorza cockleshells existed was enough for me to develop my own recipe, starting only from a name … probably our recipes are different, but this is the beauty of cooking).

EGGPLANT COCKLESHELLS

Ingredients (2 to 4 servings, depending on the courses: 4 if you serve them as starters, 2 if you serve them as a second course)

* 2 medium/big eggplants

* 1 chopped onion (for me a Tropea onion)

* extra-virgin olive oil

* hot pepper

* basil

* salt

* about 20 cherry tomatoes

* 100 g scamorza, diced into little cubes

* grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)

* breadcrumbs (optional)

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 355° F (180° C); wash and clean the eggplants, remove the stalk part and cut them in half lengthwise. Excavate the eggplant halves until you have cockleshells (I usually carve the outline of the eggplant, and then I make further cuts to help me dig the pulp without destroying the eggplant) and set aside the pulp; put the  on a nonstick baking pan and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the eggplant  will be softened. Set aside.

In the meantime dice (not too small) the eggplant pulp. Put a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to heat in a frying pan and sauté the chopped onion. When it's golden brown, add the eggplant pulp and start cooking. Then add cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half, and basil, season with salt and hot pepper and sauté until the eggplant pulp is cooked. Let the mixture cool down.

Put the mixture into a bowl (or leave it in the pan … it's important that the pan isn't hot), add diced scamorza and mix. Now fill your eggplant cockleshells (leave them on the non-stick pan) with the mixture of eggplant pulp, cherry tomatoes and scamorza (if you have some filling leftovers -and it always happens to me- put them in a little cocotte and then put it in the oven along with the eggplant cockleshells… never throw good food away, and the filling is very good even alone) and, if you want to, sprinkle some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and some breadcrumbs on top . You can easily prepare everything some hours before serving.

Preheat the oven to 355° F (180° C) and bake your cockleshells for 10 to 15 minutes, so that everything will warm up and the cheese will melt. Eat them hot, or let them cool down and eat them warm or cold. Garnish with a few basil leaves.

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