Last week, we got some Sicilian eggplant in our CSA box, and yes, it does look like a purple pumpkin. These pudgy cuties were so tasty that I ran out to Russo's and got some more. How are they different from regular eggplants? Fewer seeds and more flesh -- which results in better overall texture.
I used these lovely eggplants to make a sauce for the home-made orecchiette that we prepared in my Pasta and Gnocchi Workshop this weekend. The leftovers were excellent cold and I served them as a sandwich spread and dip the next day. I would eat the whole bowl in one sitting, but it's rich stuff (eggplant sucks up a lot of oil), so I had to use all my will power to save some for the next day. My reward for not inhaling it yesterday was an eggplant stew that I served over brown rice today. How to turn this spread into a stew? Just warm it up. That's at least three dishes in one! It would, of course, make a fabulous accompaniment to fish, lamb, chicken, and pretty much any protein. I might not serve this over ice-cream, but other than that it's quite a versatile little dish.
Eggplant Spread / Stew / Sauce
2 large eggplants (if possible Sicilian)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 large yellow onion, diced small
4 garlic cloves, minced
14.5 oz can diced or crushed tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup red or white wine
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar or to taste
Salt and pepper
- Peel the eggplant and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Put the eggplant in a colander set in the sink or over a bowl. Sprinkle very generously with salt and toss. Don't worry about the dish being salty. Most of this salt will be released with liquid. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. The eggplant will release a lot of liquid.
- While waiting for the eggplant, cook the onions the following way. Set a heavy, 12 inch skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil, onion, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent and golden brown. Remove the onion into a bowl and reserve.
- Remove the eggplant from the colander and lay it out in a single layer on paper towels. Press and other layer of paper towels on top to dry the eggplant very thoroughly.
- Add 2 Tbsp of oil to the skillet and set it over high heat. When the oil starts to ripple, put the eggplant in the skillet and stir well. Cook stirring occasionally until nicely browned. Add more oil as necessary to keep eggplant from burning and to maintain good browning. Don't worry about the eggplant sticking to the bottom. All those yummy bits will get deglazed when you add the tomatoes and wine. Be patient and don't add the wet ingredients until the eggplant is very tender and browned.
- Add the garlic and cook stirring until aromatic, 1-2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, wine, and reserved onions. Bring to a simmer while scraping the bottom of the skillet to dislodge whatever eggplant got stuck. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until most of the liquid evaporates and the stew thickens, about 35-45 minutes.
- Take off heat, stir in the vinegar, taste and correct seasoning (add more salt, black pepper, or vinegar as necessary). Serve hot or cold.