Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and preheat fryer filled with vegetable oil to 350 degrees F.
For the Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce: In a small roasting pan, combine the tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, basil (or oregano) leaves, salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes begin to caramelize, about 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, add the roasted tomatoes to the carafe of a blender and blend until the desired consistency is reached.
If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of water or chicken broth to achieve the desired consistency. Use immediately or cool completely and refrigerate for up to 4 days in a nonreactive, airtight container.
The sauce is great on pasta as well as pizza and even makes a great dipping sauce for hors d'oeuvres. If you prefer a less rustic sauce, puree completely in blender and strain.
For the shrimp: Add to a large bowl, the shrimp and 1 cup of hot sauce and toss to coat. Let marinate for 30 minutes.
In a large bowl combine the flour, masa and Essence. Add the shrimp in batches, turn to coat evenly and shake off any excess flour. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes.
For the okra: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, hot sauce and the eggs. Add the okra, season with the salt and turn to coat evenly. Let the mixture marinate for 30 minutes.
In another mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal and essence. Dredge the pieces of okra in the seasoned flour. Add the okra to the fryer and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes and lay out on a paper towel-lined plate. Season, if desired, with salt while it is still hot.
For the eggplant: Preheat oil to about 360 to 375 degrees F.
Peel the eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 1/4-inch thick slices, lengthwise again. Cut crosswise to form shapes resembling French fries.
Toss the slices with 1 teaspoon Essence and 1 teaspoon salt. Season the flour with the remaining tablespoon of Essence. In a shallow bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Lightly dredge the eggplant in the flour and then add to the egg mixture and then back into the flour.
Place the eggplant pieces into the fryer. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes and lay out on a paper towel lined plate. Season the eggplant, if desired, with salt while it is still hot.
Serve the Fried Okra, Fried shrimp and Fried Eggplant with the Roasted Tomato Sauce.
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch
Published by William Morrow, 1993.
If Romanita tomatoes are unavailable, use a combination of Roma and grape tomatoes to approximate the sweetness of Romanitas, or use another type of sweet tomato, such as Amorosa.