Monday, August 25, 2008

Sicilian Eggplant Spread / Stew / Sauce

Did this eggplant turn into a pumpkin because it did not get back from the ball by midnight?

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Add the garlic and cook stirring until aromatic, 1-2 minutes.
  6. 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.
  7. Take off heat, stir in the vinegar, taste and correct seasoning (add more salt, black pepper, or vinegar as necessary). Serve hot or cold.


Unknown said...

Yes, I love those guys. They are great for eggplant parm - you barely even need to salt them down to draw out the moisture.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Oh my goodness! I'm salivating! *laughing* I was hungry when I came on, now I'm starving!

Julia said...

Oooh that is yummy!

Do you know why some eggplants end up being bitter even after salting them and letting them stand? And why you don't really have to salt little italian or japanese or chinese eggplants?

I love eggplants but my experience cooking them is disappointingly hit-or-miss.

Helen said...

Hi Julia,

There are definitely individual differences between eggplants, just like there are between people :) I salt them primarily to get the excess moisture out.

If you peel them, you'll minimize the chance of getting a bitter final product because most of the bitterness is in the skin.


Laura Paine Carr said...

Question... fresh tomatoes instead of the stewed? They cook with the dish, and I find the resulting stew/sauce delicious.

My question: does this salting dehydrate/alter the nutrients?

Helen said...

fresh tomatoes are great, but you might want to peel and seed them, which is a hassle. In Boston, we only get fresh local tomatoes for a short time, and I prefer to eat them all raw (don't want to waste them on cooking), but that's just me...

Salting and nutrients -- have no idea. To tell you the truth, I don't believe eggplant has many nutrients to begin with ;) It's really just a water sponge, but I haven't researched this.


Adrienne said...

Hi Helen - I just discovered your blog and cooking classes and I can hardly believe it! When I first moved to Boston 3 years ago I lived on your street! Anyway, I was wondering which CSA you use; I know it's too late now but I'd like to sign up with one for next summer.

Helen said...

Hi Adrienne,

I subscribe to Brookfield Farm CSA. Here are the resources I put together for my CSA class. You might find them useful :)


Anonymous said...

Very interesting-shaped eggplant. Your recipe looks good!


Anonymous said...

Hi this place looks great and delicious.

I just started blogging and i posted the eggplant caponata a couple of days back. this one of yours looks so similar to mine.

aren't they just delicous?
I am also going to make farinata .. tomorrow(well hopefully..)great idea to put something inside them!

Alyss said...

I first cooked eggplant when I got some out of a garden at a school I worked at. I didn't salt them because they were so young. Since then I've never salted eggplant and never gotten a bitter eggplant. I've heard one theory that modern eggplant varieties have the bitter bred out of them. I see you are salting mostly for moisture issues, but what do you think about bitterness? Have you had trouble with not salting eggplant? It seems like such a hassle!

Helen said...

Hi Alyss,

I don't think it's the end of the world not to salt, but the texture comes out much better if you do. Bitterness is rarely an issue for me.


Anna said...

I made this. It's pretty good. My best eggplant dish so far. I used regular eggplant and did not remove the skin. I like the purple.

Melanie D said...

Just made this after taking your orgasmic veggies class. So yummy! Thank you! I used white wine, and I'm curious what the advantage would be in using red wine instead.

Helen said...

Hi Melanie,

White wine is fine. Red will give you a slightly more intense flavor. You could go with no wine at all and finish with a bit of vinegar.

The basic idea is that you need some acidity and you can add it in many different ways.