Sunday, June 15, 2014

Eggplants Marinated in Herbs

My favorite eggplant dishes are those in which eggplants are accompanied by tomatoes. This combination is perfect if tomatoes are slightly sour and freshen up the bland and delicate taste of the eggplants. But recently, when I went through a pile of culinary books, most of them Italian, I found several eggplant recipes which did not call for tomatoes. I thought them worth trying, hoping to discover something that would go beyond that traditional eggplant-tomato scheme.

Every time I had guests over, I tested on them different eggplant dishes without tomatoes. Two of the dishes that I was most excited about turned out to be so bland and mild that they did not make it to the table. A third one, the simplest, came out very aromatic and almost spicy. I doubled the amount of dressing in which eggplants were marinated and added oregano, which is often used in Mediterranean eggplant recipes. That dish was a clear winner.

In eggplant preparation, the longest and most messy part is when eggplants need to be fried. But when we are done with that step a simply marinade is poured over eggplants after which they just need to stay for a few hours, or even overnight. And the lovely dish is just ready. It can be made a day before and chilled until served.

Eggplant Marinated in Herbs

3 medium-sized Italian eggplants,
2 garlic cloves minced,
10 mint leaves,
1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves,
2 tbsp capers in brine, drained and chopped,
1 tsp hot pepper flakes,
2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice,
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for frying,
salt and pepper.

1. Slice eggplants into quarter inch-thick slices, salt on both sides and let it stand for an hour.
2. To make a marinade chop tiny mint and oregano leaves and put in a small bowl. Add minced garlic, chopped capers, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, a pinch of pepper and salt, and 4 tbsps of olive oil. Mix all the ingredients together. Set the marinade aside.

3. Using a paper towel, dry eggplant slices pressing gently each slice so the towel absorbs the brownish water released by them.
4. Preheat a large heavy duty frying pan until very hot. Brush each eggplant slice with oil and fry on both sides until light brown. Place fried eggplants on a plate with paper towel to absorb the extra oil. Follow with all the remaining slices.

5. When the eggplants cool down to room temperature, spread about one third of them in a medium dish. Drizzle them with marinade and gently press with a large spoon. Repeat this for each layer. Cover and let chill for at least 6 hours.

6. Serve at room temperature as a starter or grilled meat accompaniment.

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