September 16, 2009
I'm still in produce surplus mode. Gearing up for a trip to NYC this weekend and knowing I won't be able to use all the beautiful veggies that arrived in my market basket this week and feeling strapped for time. This shining purple eggplant really tugged at my heart strings, though. "Do something with me, please! Don't let me go to the compost heap!"
So I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen yesterday afternoon. The time spent putting up produce for later in the year when we will be needing a burst of summer is time well spent, even if it means that after 3 hours in the kitchen I still have to make dinner. But I have these beauties to look forward to:
Eggplant and peppers in garlic oil. Oh how I look forward to cracking one of these open some cold day in January and spreading it over bruschetta with goat cheese, or layered onto a homemade pizza margherita. Or just offered up alone on a dish as an antipasto for guests.
I have a book called "Preserving the Harvest" that has been my go-to tome for learning about canning and freezing the summer's bounty. I have made strawberry-rhubarb jam, pickled peppers and shallots, and now this. All have been wonderful canning recipes and great ways to use the produce that's lingering around in late summer.
I roasted the sliced, unpeeled eggplant under the broiler for about 20 min. Then I did the same with the peppers until they browned nicely and softened.
The peppers were beautiful to begin with, most of them from our farmer and a few stragglers from our garden. but coming out of the oven with their skins blackened and smelling sweet they were even better. I let them cool in a brown paper bag, then peeled and quartered them.
While they cooled, I heated a cup of olive oil, 3/4 cup of vinegar of any kind, 3 garlic cloves, chopped, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Simmer that for about 5 minutes. Then, in 3 clean mason jars, I layered the eggplant and the peppers with large basil leaves in between.
Then I poured the hot garlic oil over each jar until it comes up over the veggies but leaving about an inch of headspace. I did not process these jars because I only made three and will give one away to a neighbor. They will last unopened in the fridge for a while and I don't think we'll be able to wait much longer than that. If I had wanted to store them long-term, I could have processed them in a hot water bath canner for 20 minutes.
On another occasion, I might have made this with my eggplant, like I did a few weeks ago. Melanzane alla parmigiana is one of the best ways I know to eat this late summer veg. I learned mine from Carla the Tuscan cook last Fall and it is particularly cheesy and delicious, a typical Sicilian dish made with several types of cheese, not necessarily parmigiano. I happened to have mozzarella and pecorino on hand and they blended well. The key is using your own homemade tomato sauce and I don't bread or fry the eggplant first. I slice and roast it in the oven on 400 until it's soft and lightly browned. Then, layer the eggplant slices with the tomato sauce and cheeses, add some fresh basil for color, and bake until bubbling and delicious-looking.