I don't know about you, but I find it virtually impossible to walk by an eggplant and not pick it up. They are just so beautiful. The heft, the mysterious deep purple skin, the smooth contours just speak to me. They are the plump and saucy pin-up girls of the vegetable world and I am always seduced. I had visions of creamy curries and crusty parmesans as I filled my basket with one, two, OK, three too many at the Kingfield Farmers Market on Sunday. But as much as the aubergine beauties might have been calling to me from my kitchen counter, the last honeyed days of summer were calling me even more.
Instead of hopping on the computer and hungrily searching my favorite food blogs for recipes, I went for a long and lazy late afternoon swim at Lake Harriet. My son and I swam way far out past the buoys until we could barely recognize the rest of our tiny family on shore. We floated on our backs, holding hands like otters do, the sun warming our faces, the cool water muffling all sounds but that of our own breath.
Some times . . . many times, life gets in the way of kitchen experimentation. Either by choice or necessity, I often shrug, compromise and turn to one of my workhorse recipes. Although there is something heady and exciting about trying out a new dish with fancy ingredients, I feel like most of my cooking is an attempt to corral more workhorses for my stables. I find great comfort and joy in going back to certain recipes and methods, because they are easy for me, because I tend to have all the ingredients, because my people love them.
And so it happened with my eggplant. This is a recipe from my mother and although I'm not sure it even has a name, it is my fall back, my eggplant workhorse, because it takes ingredients that I always have on hand (garlic, parsley, white pepper, coarse salt, red wine vinegar, and canola oil). Falling somewhere between a salad and a pickle and a confit, this is a garlicky delicious way to use up and store all the extra eggplant that may have winked and sweet talked its way into your shopping basket.
When I have this around (and it lasts for up to a month), I put a meaty little round or two on my plate virtually every meal. Prepared this way, the eggplant is pungent and powerful - a little goes a long way, but I have found that the earthiness of the garlicky eggplant tastes good with just about anything: steak, lamb, eggs, salmon, pizza! To say nothing of the divine little pool of oil speckled with garlic and parsley that's left on your plate just waiting for a piece of crusty baguette.
No need to avert your eyes from those sexy purple beauties any more!
Pin-Up Girl Eggplant
one large eggplant or 4 baby eggplants (cut into 1 inch cubes if using large, 1 inch thick rounds if using baby, leave skin on)
red pepper flakes
4-5 large garlic cloves finely minced
1/2 cup Italian parsley finely minced
red wine vinegar
canola or vegetable oil
If using a large eggplant, sprinkle cubes with salt and let sit in a strainer for fifteen minutes before rinsing thoroughly. I haven't found this step to be necessary when using baby eggplant.
Bring 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar to a rolling boil in a pot and add the eggplant. Cook until just tender about 8 minutes.
Drain and cool the eggplant completely.
In a jar or lidded container begin making layers as follows: eggplant, sprinkling of garlic, parsley, white pepper, red pepper and pinch of salt. Cover the layer with oil and then start again. When the container is full, add more oil so that all of the eggplant is submerged. Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Gabriela Lambert is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. You can also read more of her writing on her blog www.peevishmama.com. Her last post for SGT was On the Look Out for Uli Westphal's Mutatoes.