If you can find Italian heirloom eggplant, consider yourself of good fortune. Last week I was able to pick up a few of these from a farmer who used seeds from Italy.
The flesh of these eggplants was so tender and so sweet that I had wondered if I ever really had any good eggplant before.
I wanted a simple eggplant recipe that took very little active cooking time.
Even though I knew we were going out to dinner, I got to work straight away in the kitchen, peeling, chopping and braising. I was on the phone with another food blogger at the time and told her, “I’m not sure what I’m doing, but I’m going to put everything in a big pot and see what happens.”
First of all, typically eggplant needs to sit on the counter, and salted to draw out excess moisture. When I did that, there was no excess moisture, but the flesh was beautiful, tender, and appeared to be picked that day. It peeled very easily although I have finally found a peeler that works after going through three peelers that only frustrated me.
I had six big fat fresh farm tomatoes from Burns Produce Stand, an onion, a red bell pepper, a little garlic, basil, and that was that. Burns Farm Produce Stand sits on the farm from which I do a lot of instagram stories.
This simple eggplant recipe went beyond my expectations. At first bite, I did feel as if I was eating my great grandmother’s food.
Authentic Italian food is nuanced, and if tomatoes are involved, should taste as if they just came out of the garden. A bite should make your eyes close and your stomach happy. I think American restaurants are finally discovering the truth about Italian cooking, but it’s taken a long time. Too much of what represents Italian food is heavy, acidic, and far from its roots.
This dish only works if the vegetables are very fresh and the tomatoes ripe. In lieu of fresh tomatoes, you can use a couple of cans of San Marzano tomatoes, but even those differ from can to can. I like the Cento certified, which for the money is a great value. Avoid any of the San Marzanos in the white cans or Muir Glen organic (taste is sub par). Epicurious did a blind taste testing. Read here to see what they liked.
You can play around with this simple eggplant recipe by adding pasta, meat or making soup.
When Mr. Spinach Tiger saw what was in the pot, he begged me to add sausage. That’s a great idea, but seriously this can be eaten by itself, with pasta, with rice, or with crusty bread.
On the second day, I thought I put it in the Vitamix, made soup and added Italian Sausage. I’ll do that recipe separately at some point so people can easily find it.
I made this in my favorite Lodge Dutch oven. You can also put everything into a slow cooker and walk away.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves fresh garlic
- 2 eggplants, peeled cut into large cubes
- 6 extra large fresh tomatoes or 2 large cans San Marzano Tomatoes (about 6 cups)
- 1 bell pepper, seeded, sliced thinly, lengthwise
- 1 onion, chopped
- fresh basil
- Kitchen Tools
- Vegetable Peeler (I use this one)
- Dutch Oven (I cook in this)
- If using fresh tomatoes, blanch first for one minute in boiling water. Cut one end with an x and peel.
- Chop tomatoes. Set aside. If they are too watery, you may discard some of the liquid. My tomatoes were very meaty, so I used everything.
- If using canned tomatoes, chop roughly. Use all the juice from the can.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot.
- If using a dutch oven on top of the stove, heat olive oil and soften garlic. Add onion and saute for a minute or so just to add flavor to the oil.
- Add the rest of the ingredients.
- Cook on very low for three hours, until all the eggplant is very soft.
- TO MAKE SOUP (which is an option)
- Put ¾ into a vitamix or use an immersion blender. You can blend all of it if you desire. Serve with fresh herbs and pecorino romano.
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