Roasted Eggplant Sandwiches with Tomato Jam and Tzatziki

I almost like this sandwich better than BLTs with fresh tomatoes from the garden. (Almost). Last winter I found myself craving one often, wishing it were eggplant season.  Wishing it were eggplant season.  Who even does that?

You really need to try this, though.  If you have still have eggplant hanging out in the garden or your CSA box, you should make this. roasted eggplant sandwichThese ingredients don’t really have to be a sandwich.  I like putting them in wraps too, and they’re also nice as part of a middle-eastern-mediterranean-ish salad plate with some olives, tabouleh or falafels.

The important parts of this combination are:

1. roasted or grilled eggplant

2. tomato jam: you can’t skip it. I tried earlier in the summer and it wasn’t the same at all.  My recipe is here but there are lots of others floating around the internet. 

3. tzatziki sauce -or- crumbled goat or feta cheese

4. some baby salad greens and fresh herbs (a few mint leaves are by far the best, but parsley or basil will work too)

Once you have all of these things, just combine them into a sandwich or whatever makes you happy.  I added some sliced red onions and tomatoes this time, but you don’t have to. roasted eggplant plateROASTED EGGPLANT

Ingredients:

  • eggplant
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Slice the eggplant into rounds and place them on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle them liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast them in the oven until they’re nicely golden brown and cooked through.  You may need to flip the slices midway through cooking, but it kind of depends how thick you want to make them.

TZATZIKI

Cook Time: a couple minutes

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1  c. plain yogurt
  • 1 c. chopped cucumber
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 oz.  soft chevre or feta cheese
  • 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processer. Puree just until everything is chunky, not completely smooth.  Taste it and season accordingly with salt and pepper.

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Aubergines, Part 2

I’m still swimming in eggplant.  I feel like I’m doing an exercise in advanced level food preservation.  Putting up 500 lbs. of tomatoes is a challenge, but there are so many delicious possibilities: sauce, salsa, sweet oven roasted tomatoes… and the list goes on.  Blanching and peeling 100 lbs. of peaches is a hot, annoying chore, but peach pie filling and vanilla peach jam easily justify the trouble.

Eggplant, on the other hand….

I’m a compulsive preserver, and even though we have more than enough of our own eggplant, when my friends down the road asked me if I wanted all their “seconds” (these beautiful Japanese eggplants that have only the smallest of imperfections, certified organic, and their first quality ones get sold at the local co-op for an arm and a leg), since they didn’t know what else to do with them, even though my brain says NO NO NO NO NO NO MORE EGGPLANT, my mouth opens, and out comes:

“SURE!”

It’s FREE. How can you argue with free?

Here’s my solution:

EGGPLANT CAPONATA

This is wonderfully versatile Italian spread.  Serve it with sliced baguette for an appetizer,  use it as a filling for a vegetarian sandwich with some melted cheese on top, or toss it with some cooked pasta for a quick dinner.  Just like the Pasta Puttanesca I made the other day, it’s packed with olives and capers, and just like the other day, feel free to leave them out or reduce the amounts if you’re not as big of a fan. The recipe I’ve written here is my attempt at combining Mary Ann Espositos’ super authentic caponata recipe and a shelf-stable recipe from SB Canning.

Cook Time: about 1 1/2 hrs.

Makes: about 10 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbs. olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 6 c. diced eggplant (1/2″ cubes)
  • 1 c. diced celery
  • 1 c. diced onion
  • 1/4 c. roughly chopped basil
  • 1/4 c. roughly chopped parsley
  • 2 c. tomato paste
  • 1/2 c. red wine
  • 2 c. red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbs. capers, drained
  • 1 5 oz jar of pimento stuffed green olives, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs. cocoa powder
  • salt and pepper

(Bring boiling water canner to a boil.) Heat the oil in a large pot on medium high heat.  Add the garlic, onions, celery, eggplant, basil and parsley.  Stir everything together, turn the heat to medium, and cover.  Cook for ten minutes.   Next, uncover and stir in the remaining ingredients (tomato paste, red wine, vinegar, capers, chopped green olives, and cocoa powder) and then cook on low until the eggplant is tender.  Taste the caponata and season with salt and pepper.  (You may not need to add any salt because of salt in the capers, vinegar and olives).

Put lids and rings in a small pot of water and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Ladle the caponata into hot, sterilized jars,  leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace accordingly. Wipe jar rims clean and screw on lids. Process half pints for 15 minutes and pints for 20 minutes (adjust for altitude if necessary).

Aubergines, Part 1

Eggplants always seem like the little lost vegetables of summer.  People dream about biting into a homegrown tomato, but I never hear anyone longingly wish for an eggplant.

I feel like if I started putting up a sign that said “aubergines” instead of “eggplant” at the farmers market, we might sell more of them.  It’s more romantic, right?

So, my goal today is to convince you to love eggplant.

First:

Have you seen all the specialty varieties of eggplant seeds that you can find these days?  The beautiful shades of dark purple to white and pale green are so enchanting.  I especially like this Listada de Gandia variety from Baker Creek Seeds:

(…true, I would probably buy a dead squirrel if it were advertised as having “lovely purple and white stripes.”)

Eggplants are so simple to grow, too.  Just make sure to start your seeds really early, with the tomatoes, and then give them good soil and nice spot in full sun.

And now, a recipe:

This is hands down, the best pasta sauce that I know how to make.  My mom made a slightly different version for me every year on my birthday when I grew up.  My parents had referred to this dish by a different name, a family friend who had given them the original recipe, and it was only when I was older that I realized that my favorite pasta sauce was pasta “puttanesca”…. which translates to “whore’s pasta.”  Which is amazing, and makes me think of renaming some of my other favorite dishes with more colorful language.

I’m not sure what the official story is behind the name- I’ve heard that it has to do with how quick and easy the dish is to throw together, since the ladies had to work at night and couldn’t spend forever working on dinner.  I’ve also heard that it’s because the smell of the sauce was so wonderful that it would entice the men who smelled it into the woman’s house. Whatever the story, this pasta’s delicious, and a great way to use up eggplant.

(This is the pasta after we already ate some for dinner and it sat in the fridge and then we ate some more after that.  I could have plated it nicely and taken a pretty picture, but, you know, I was busy eating it and didn’t).

PASTA PUTTANESCA

Even people who hate eggplant will like this sauce, since the eggplant melts into the tomato sauce to make this luscious, silky texture.  I like using Paul Robeson tomatoes for this sauce- their bold, spicy flavor goes really nicely with the capers. You can easily make this vegan by omitting the sausage and adding some extra olive oil.  

Cook Time: a couple hours

Feeds: a lot. 8? or 2 people with many days of leftovers (which are happily eaten)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb.  Italian sausage links, sliced into 1″ sections
  • 6 c. diced eggplant, any variety, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 6 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes,* cored and cut in half
  • 2 cans of black olives, drained
  • 1 5oz. jar of capers, drained and 1/2 of the brine reserved
  • 1/2 c. roughly chopped parsley
  • salt & pepper

In a large, wide bottomed pot, heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, onions, and sausage, and saute till the sausage is starting to brown.  Turn the heat down a little bit. and add the eggplant and saute until the sausage is browned on the outside and the eggplant is also starting to look slightly browned.  Add extra oil if necessary, to prevent sticking.

Add the tomatoes, olives, capers and reserved caper brine, and parsley. Stir everything together.  Turn the heat to low and cook for a couple hours.  The eggplant will completely fall apart and the sauce will thicken and reduce by about half.  You’ll need to stir the tomatoes a bit at first while they release their juices, and then you can walk away and stop paying attention to the sauce for awhile.  When the liquid has reduced off and the sauce is almost done, you’ll need to stand next to the pot and stir it to make sure it the tomatoes don’t burn on the bottom of the pot.

Taste the sauce, and then season with some salt and pepper.

Serve over pasta.  The leftovers only get better in the fridge.

A note about tomatoes:  We mostly grow thin-skinned, juicy heirlooms, so that’s what I usually cook with.  I don’t peel them because it takes forever and the skins don’t bother me.  If you’re motivated to blanch and peel yours, more power to you.

A note about eggplant: I don’t bother sweating eggplant with salt prior to cooking.  It tastes delicious without that step, and I am all about working less and sitting around more.  Maybe for something like eggplant parmesan it would matter, but not here, where the eggplant melts into the sauce anyway.

and one last P.P.S: I am a fiend for black olives.  If you’re not as excited about them as me, feel free to reduce the amount of them in the recipe.

(coming soon: my favorite recipe for preserving eggplant in jars…. stay tuned)