As is often the case when I make something that is multi-stepped and requires some waiting around, timing things just right and a cooling off period, I so wanted to ring up my Mommom and tell her all about my culinary adventure, hoping to pop by and give her a taste. But that experience in my cooking accomplishments has come and gone. Mommom passed away about a year ago.
She made an amazing marinated eggplant. And I guess that's why it's on my mind. Approaching the anniversary of her death, I can't help but think about the unforgettable dishes she has made throughout the many years of her cooking for all of us.
I don't have a copy of my grandmother's marinated eggplant. I don't really know if she had one. She often stored culinary blueprints in the corners of her brilliant mind with no tangible documentation save for the finished delicious product.
But I tried to replicate it as best I could with this Poached Eggplant with Vinegar, Garlic and Mint recipe by Lidia Bastianich. I used basil instead of mint. I couldn't get my hands on nice mint at the time. I know this isn't peak eggplant season, but I wanted to give it a try before summer hits so I know what I'm doing when I find myself with boatloads of eggplant. (My students, family and friends often bestow me with vast quantities of produce. A fact of life if you live in South Jersey.)
This if magnifico on just really fresh Italian bread. I'm sure it would rock with some grilled meats or swordfish. And of course a wonderful glass or bottle of vino. I know I did my Mommom proud with this one.
Poached Eggplant with Vinegar, Garlic and Mint
By Lidia Bastianich
From Lidia's Family Table
2 1/4 pounds small, firm eggplants (preferably 6 to 8 ounces each)
2 cups red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 to 20 small fresh mint leaves, shredded
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
An 8-quart pot or saucepan for poaching
A flat baking sheet or platter for cooling the eggplant
Prepping and Poaching the Eggplant
Trim the stem and bottom (blossom) ends of the eggplants. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, then slice each half into wedges, about 1 1/2 inches wide on the outside (peel side). You should have thirty or more wedges.
Pour the vinegar and 20 cups water into the pot, cover and heat quickly until boiling. Drop in all the eggplant slices, cover and return the liquid to the boil rapidly, then set the cover ajar and adjust the heat so it's a moderate boil.
Push the eggplant under the surface frequently, shifting the pieces around a bit so they all poach evenly. After about 10 minutes, reduce the heat so the liquid is perking gently and won't break up the softening wedges. Cook for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, until the flesh of the eggplant appears completely translucent - any opaque streaks means it is not cooked through. Don't cook any longer than necessary; as soon as they are done, turn off the heat and carefully lift the wedges out of the liquid with a wide, perforated spatula or strainer - let the liquid drain off briefly - and lay them on the baking sheet. Spread the slices apart from each other in one layer and let them cool for a few minutes.
Marinating the Eggplant
Using a paring knife, cut out the stuck-together mass of seeds on each slice and discard, taking care not to tear the flesh; don't worry if a few seeds are left.
As you seed them, lay a third of the wedges in the small gratin dish in one layer, and top them with the seasonings; sprinkle on a third of the salt and a third of the mint-leaf shreds, scatter a third of the garlic slices, and drizzle a third of the oil all over. Arrange and season two more layers of eggplant in the same way.
Marinate the eggplant for about an hour at room temperature before serving or using in a dish (though they will be tasty in 30 minutes if you need them sooner).
If you are making this ahead for serving the next day, seal the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate; remove at least an hour before using so it comes to room temperature. To keep after the second day, remove the garlic slices from the dish, wrap and refrigerate; use within a week.
Please note: The Jersey Girl used basil instead of mint.