When friends give you eggplants that’s a real gift.
Here is a recipe I remember from my summers on
my Grandmother’s farm in New Jersey.
2 LBS ITALIAN EGGPLANTS – ends trimmed, peeled, cut into bite-size pieces
3 TBS OLIVE OIL
1 CUP SWEET ONIONS – diced
3 GARLIC CLOVES – finely chopped
4-5 ANCHOVY FILETS
RED PEPPER FLAKES – to taste
1 CAN TOMATO PASTE
½ – ¾ CUP CELERY – sliced
½ CUP FENNEL – sliced – optional
3-4 TBS CAPERS – drained
SMALL BUNCH BASIL LEAVES – torn
½ CUP GREEN OLIVES – pitted, sliced
½ CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR
½ CUP ITALIAN PARSLEY – chopped
FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER
Salt the eggplant and place in a colander, cover with a plate with a weight on top to force out the water. This is also said to draw out the bitterness so let sit about 30 minutes.
Warm the oil in a large heavy duty pan over medium heat. Add the onions (I use Vidalia, but my Grandmother wouldn’t have known about these delicious onions then.) garlic, anchovies, and red. pepper flakes. Better to sprinkle just a little now as you can always adjust later when all is melded together. Cook and stir often until the onions are translucent. Add the tomato paste, celery, fennel, capers, vinegar wine, torn basil leaves, parsley, and olives. Cover the pan and bring the mixture just to a slow boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, adding a little water or wine if it starts getting a bit dry.
Rinse the eggplants and drain thoroughly shaking the colander to get a lot of the water out. Add the eggplant to the pan, cover and cook until the eggplant is tender 25-30 minutes.
Season with freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt and additional red pepper flakes. Stir well, remove from the heat, cover, and refrigerate for a day or so before serving.
NOTE: Of course, this is a condensed version from my Grandmother’s.The farm was too busy and the crops were abundant so this recipe might have been multiplied about 10 times or more back then. I just remember using tremendously large utensils back then. This recipe is a manageable amount to process, so I sometimes multiply this many times.