One of the few recipes I actually got from the chef before I left home. The eggplant was served as a salad on occasion in the little restaurant, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Before I left, I took my trusty notebook with me on my last visit to the restaurant, waited for the lunch crowd to clear out, and asked the Owner/Chef/Manager to give me his recipe. He did. Here is a picture of what I wrote:
What Ididn’t write about was the salting and pressing of the eggplant, because that was something you just know to do with eggplant, right? Well, considering I wrote this down in december of 1988….a lot of time has gone by. I have made these a few times over the years, and they always turn out delicious. Also, while I do salt and press my eggplant, I haven’t actually boiled them in the vinegar, just soaked them. I have seen recipes both ways, and…I like the chewiness of the non-boiled eggplant. Also, I used to cut my eggplant in 1/4-inch slices, either longways or in rounds. After having made them a few times, I decided to try them cut in sticks, so that they would be easier to eat as an appetizer – no knives needed! I guess for a restaurant it’s okay, but if you actually google Melanzane sott’olio, the images of are primarily of eggplant “sticks”.
These are the eggplant I found in the grocery store:
Usually, I get these at the farmer’s market, but have been too busy to go in the last week or two. Funny, the cashier, a young teenage boy, looked at the pretty white eggplant, and asked me what they were. I said, White eggplant. He started looking up the code, and said,”Boy, there sure are getting some crazy looking vegetables these days!” My reply, “No, most of what is grown never even makes it to the grocery store!” He just looked at me funny. I am just happy that my grocery chain actually sells a lot of stuff from local farmers. Go Rouses!
These take a full day to make, or can be divided over a weekend, depending how much you are making. It is very important to have hot, sterilized jars to ensure that they keep well.
eggplant, 2 large or 3 to 5 medium or small
salt, about 3/4 cup
red wine vinegar (or white, or apple), about 2 cups
olive oil, a lot!
oregano, about 4 to 5 3-inch sprigs
garlic, how much do you want?
red pepper flakes, or small red peppers
1. Cut the eggplant into layers, and then into french fry sizes:
I used about 3/4 cup salt, half of it regular kosher salt, and the other half Redmond’s Real Salt, which has a pink color with a lot of naturally occurring minerals.
See the gap between the colander and the bowl above it? After a few hours the gap is closed (I let them sit overnight.) **UPDATE: This has been my most popular post. I think it’s important to let you know that letting the eggplant drain overnight is tooo long! They were very chewy, not in a good way-although I still ate them! Three to fours is plenty. You can see how the water has gotten “pressed” out the next morning.
Yes, I added heavier “weights”, and see how almost flush the bowl above the colander is? A good sign. Even after salting, pressing, and 24 hours, there was still a lot of moisture that came out when I hand-wrung the eggplant. No rinsing required, a lot of the salt is drained out with the water. The remaining salt helps with the preserving, and flavoring, of the eggplant.
Drain the vinegar after one hour, and pack into clean and sterilized jars. Add garlic cloves (2 to 3 per jar), a bay leaf, oregano, and in one jar I used a long hot pepper from a friends garden. Pour in enough olive oil to cover all pieces of eggplant. Usually, I overpack the eggplant, and as they start absorbing the oil they start poking up over the “fill” line. So, I either start a smaller jar, or put it in a small glass container with olive oil for next day consumption.
The finished product. Let sit on counter for a few days for flavors to meld. After a few days, eat, or refrigerate. They say that this is good for 3 to 4 weeks. If it lasts that long.
It is really good as a salad, part of an antipasto platter. It is best to have some really good bread to soak up the olive oil. Also, once the eggplant is gone, the olive oil can still be used in a salad dressing; it is already seasoned and good to go.