My Aunt Josie used to tell a story about the first time she went to Italy to visit her cousins. They had been communicating via telephone (my Aunt Emma could speak Italian) but had never met. So Josie (and I’m assuming the other sisters) flew to Rome to visit. At the airport, they searched for faces to match the name. They weren’t sure how they would find them, but there were their cousins, who looked a lot like their mama; and so they were finally united.
The cousins took my aunts to their apartment in Rome, where they had lunch. Part of the lunch was Pickled Eggplant, served on Saltines. My Aunt Josie was the cook in the family and she learned how to make it from her Italian cousins that afternoon. After lunch, they all changed into their nightgowns and took a nap. La vita bella! I think she told me dinner was a smaller meal than lunch, but she also told me that ever since that day, she always kept a jar of Pickled Eggplant in her refrigerator.
About ten years ago, I asked Josie to come over and show me how to make it. She was probably almost 90 years old at that point, and I figured it was best to learn from the maestro! Recipes are fine, and in fact I did have her recipe for Pickled Eggplant which she typed up and Xeroxed to give out, but there is no substitute for watching how a recipe is made. In person. Now, that Josie is gone, I’m so glad we had that morning together. She did have an issue with my eggplant, however.
This is the eggplant you got?said Josie, picking it up disdainfully.
“Yes,” I said. “What’s wrong with it?”
“I like to get firm eggplants,” she said.
So, when you get your eggplant to make this, make sure it’s firm. I used two small eggplants, instead of one large, because that’s what I had from Empower Farms.
Pickled EggplantCourse: AppetizersCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy
This Pickled Eggplant is easy to make and lasts in the fridge for months.
1 Eggplant, firm
1 head of Garlic, peeled and cut into chunks
Red Wine Vinegar (about 1/2 jar)
Oregano (1- 2 tablespoons)
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
- Peel eggplant and slice into rounds. Slice rounds into strips, and cut strips into half.
- Place eggplant strips in a colander in sink. Lightly salt and place a weight on top of the strips. (Josie used a pot of water). Let sit about 40 minutes.
- Squeeze eggplants by hand, trying to extract as much liquid as possible.
- Heat red wine vinegar over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Toss in eggplant.
- Cook about 3 to 4 minutes, tossing constantly in order that the eggplant gets cooked.
- Place on platter to cool.
- When cool, sprinkle oregano over eggplant and add chunks of garlic, placing them with the eggplants and oil in a jar.
- Serve at room temperature with Saltine crackers.
- The original recipe called for olive oil, however, Josie always used vegetable oil as that was how her cousins made it.
- I like to add some red pepper flakes to spice it up, but this is optional.
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