Sunday, July 19, 2009


Update on July 12th post (Nonna's Pickled Eggplant).

Today was opening day! Opening the jar that had been marinating in the fridge for 1 week, that is...

I'm embarrassed to admit that there is only 1/2 a jar left - that's right, Nonna's Pickled Eggplant was amazing, and I've made a pig of myself!

I've decided there's only one solution...

Need. More. Eggplant.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nonna's Pickled Eggplant (Melanzane Sott'olio)

Before reading or trying this recipe, please read the FDA article, and do a search on garlic + oil + botulism. Educate yourself!

While I can state that my family has used the following recipe for generations, and never had a problem, I am not a medical professional, nor a scientist, so I can't explain why we've never encountered botulism. Could it be the fact that we refrigerate the product soon after preparing, or the acidic vinegar (long known as a preservative) in the recipe, or the fact that our family always has a braid of well-dried garlic hanging the kitchen for use, or just plain luck? I have no idea... All I can say is do your research, read what's been said, follow directions exactly for preserving, and if you're still not comfortable - DON'T TRY THIS RECIPE! Believe me, I won't be offended, we all have our own comfort levels.

That being said...

This recipe is probably my favorite one of Nonna's, and it was passed down to her from generations before. It was lost to me for several years after she passed away, but with some research and tweaking, I've managed to replicate it exactly to my childhood memories!

Nonna's Pickled Eggplant

3/4 lb eggplant (Chinese eggplant is my favorite, but any variety will work - remember, smaller is better!)

Coarse Kosher Salt

3/4 cup (give or take) white vinegar

about 1 and 1/2 cups water (2:1 ratio with vinegar)

4 medium garlic cloves, peeled, washed, and dried well

1 TBL fresh basil, minced

1 tsp fresh oregano, minced

1 tsp dried red pepper flakes (or 1 small whole dried cayenne pepper, crushed)

High quality extra virgin olive oil

Sterilized jar, of a size to barely fit your eggplant strips (8 oz, maybe?)

Trim ends from eggplant, and peel. Slice horizontally, turn, slice horizontally again, and then vertically into 2 in strips. I know this may be confusing, sorry - what you want are strips the size of short shoestring french fries.

Place your strips in a non-metal colander, sprinkle with coarse Kosher salt, and toss well. Place colander over bowl, or in sink, covered with a double layer of paper towels, for 30 min. This allows the eggplant to 'sweat', removing excess moisture and bitterness (bitterness is not usually a problem with small eggplants).

Rinse eggplant strips well with cold water, drain, and pat dry well with paper towels.

Combine vinegar and water in a non reactive saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. Add eggplant, and boil for 2-3 minutes.

Pour eggplant into colander, and drain well. After draining, squeeze strips between paper towels to dry. (Don't worry, that lovely vinegar 'tang' will remain)

Mix your minced fresh herbs together well.

Pour a thin layer of oil into the bottom of your sterilized jar. Add some eggplant strips, a clove of garlic, some of your herb mix, and repeat, starting with more oil. Continue until your jar is completely full, being sure the eggplant is totally covered with oil, and no 'headroom' is left. I use the handle end of a wooden spoon to 'poke', and make sure all air is removed. Seal your jar tightly, and allow to cool ONLY TO ROOM TEMP! then place in fridge.

Allow to marinate for a week, (this is the absolutely hardest part of this recipe - I want my pickled eggplant NOW!) and then enjoy!

*Your oil may solidify as a result of refrigeration, but don't worry, it's fine. Just remove pickled eggplant from fridge about 15 min before serving, and the oil will liquefy again.
**I cannot attest to the shelf life of this pickled eggplant, but I wouldn't store it more than 2 weeks (yes, even refrigerated, see safety precautions above). We don't have that problem around here - it never lasts more than a day or 2 after the marinating is over! :-)



I'm baaacckkk!

Let's get right to it - A friend is in need of eggplant recipes, and I'm always willing to help out a friend!

So...early Saturday morning, off to the Memphis Farmers Market I went, in search of some delightful Chinese eggplant. I easily achieved my goal, and also picked up some Ripley, TN cherry tomatoes (more on that later). I could easily have left with a ton of beautiful produce, but I remained focused...

Back at home, I was in a mood to grill, so I decided to make Eggplant and Goat Cheese rolls, one of my favorite ways with eggplant, with some of my little purple beauties.

*My camera (well, its batteries) was giving me fits yesterday, so I don't have step-by-step pics, but hopefully my descriptions will do...

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Rolls

2-3 small Chinese Eggplants (other varieties are fine, I just happen to love Chinese
- total weight should be 1 to 1 and 1/2 lbs)

Coarse Kosher Salt

1/4 to 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar, for marinating

1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp dried red pepper flakes

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 lg clove garlic, finely minced

6 oz goat cheese (I like the plain Montchevre)

5 large leaves of fresh basil, minced

2 TBL fresh oregano, minced

2 TBL fresh parsley, minced

Trim ends from eggplants, and then thinly slice, horizontally. (1/4in is a good thickness) You want long, thin strips.

Lay strips in single layer on double thickness of paper towels, sprinkle with coarse Kosher salt, and cover with another double layer of paper towels. Allow to 'sweat' for 20-30 min. This removes the excess moisture, and bitterness, if any, from the slices.

Rinse slices with cold water, and pat dry with fresh paper towels.

In med bowl, whisk together Balsamic vinegar, and both types of pepper. Pour 1/2 of mixture into a long, (non-metal) shallow baking dish, cover with eggplant strips, and then pour the rest of the mixture over top of the strips. Cover, and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.

Put olive oil and garlic into a small saute pan, and warm slowly over low heat. The low heat allows the garlic to release its sweetness. As soon as tiny bubbles begin to appear in the oil, remove the pan from the heat, and set aside (do not allow the garlic to begin to brown!) Let cool - the slow cooling process will infuse the oil with wonderful garlic flavor.

In a med bowl, mix goat cheese well with the minced basil, oregano, and parsley. Cover, and refrigerate.

About 30 min. before the marinating is done, fire up your charcoal grill. When it comes to grilling, I'm a 100% charcoal girl, so if you're using a gas grill, you'll have to adapt this part.

At the 2 hour marinating mark, remove the eggplant from the fridge, and allow to rest for about 20 min. Also remove your goat cheese mixture from the fridge at this time - its flavors will intensify as it comes to room temp. After the rest period, hopefully your coals will be nice and white/gray, completely ashed over. Arrange your hot coals in a single layer, and situate your grill grate about 2 in above the fire. Drain eggplant of marinade, arrange on platter, and brush top sides with your garlic infused oil.

Place eggplant slices on grill, oiled side down, and lightly brush oil on exposed side. A good fire will grill your slices quickly - it only takes about 2 min per side. You want the slices browned, but still soft. Remove your eggplants slices at that stage, to a clean platter.

As soon as the eggplant slices are cool enough to handle, spread each with a layer of goat cheese mixture (how much is your business - I use a bit of a heavy hand here, love that goat cheese!). Starting at the smallest end, roll up slices, pinwheel fashion.

I tend to roll my slices almost right off the grill, so the residual heat melts the goat cheese a bit. If you don't have my heatproof fingertips, lol, you can also pop your rolls into a preheated 375F oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese a bit, or not. Good goat cheese is good goat cheese, melted or unmelted. ;-) *Do not attempt to heat in the microwave! Microwaving cause the cheese to break down, leaving you with a grainy filling - not a good thing, take my word for it...

I can't give you the number of servings for this one - everyone's appetite is different, and it also depends on whether the rolls are being served as an appetizer, side dish, or even a main meal. You're on your own with that!


Stay tuned for another eggplant recipe, one that's been a favorite of my family for generations...