Eggplant is not your average vegetable, because it's actually a berry! From the nightshade family, alongside tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes, eggplant is a versatile fruit and can be part of a variety of preparations. Use eggplant in pasta dishes or as a "meat" replacement in vegetarian stews. Grill it and layer it with marinara sauce and vegan cheese as your "pasta" layer in a vegan lasagna.
Although there's a long wait for eggplants to be ready to eat, once this eggplant is done it will become a favorite. First cooked in vinegar, it's similar to an eggplant pickle and takes a flavorful fragrance from fresh garlic and a spicy profile from chili flakes. It has a wonderful texture, making it great for salads and antipasti, and to spread on a fresh baguette.
Keep in the fridge for up to a week.
- 2 pounds eggplant
- 1/4 cup fine sea salt
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar (or cider vinegar)
- 2 cups water
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- Optional: 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, thyme, mint, or oregano
Gather the ingredients.
Peel eggplant, and cut into 3 x 1/2 inch rectangular sticks.
To sweat the eggplants, toss the sticks with salt and place them in a colander over a bowl or sink. Let sit to drain for at least 4 hours, up to overnight. (If overnight, cover and keep the colander and bowl in the fridge.)
Squeeze out as much of the remaining liquid from the eggplant sticks as possible by placing them in a clean kitchen towel and pressing vigorously over a bowl.
In a medium saucepan, bring water and vinegar to a boil. Add eggplant, and cook until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Drain eggplant in a colander, set a plate on top to weigh it down, and let drain for at least 4 hours, up to overnight. (Again, if overnight, cover and chill like you did when sweating the eggplant sticks.)
Vigorously squeeze small handfuls of the eggplant with the help of a clean kitchen towel and remove as much liquid as possible.
In a large bowl, toss eggplant with garlic, chili flakes, any herbs, if using, and 3/4 cup of the olive oil.
Transfer eggplant to a 1-quart jar, add enough olive oil to cover, cover with a lid, and chill overnight before serving. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature before serving; any leftover marinated eggplant will last up to 1 week refrigerated.
How to Use this Eggplant
Although fresh bread is a simple and delicious accompaniment for this pickled eggplant, here are a few other ideas for inspiration:
- Eggplant Panino: On a fresh piece of ciabatta bread, layer eggplant, brie cheese, and sundried tomatoes. Press in a sandwich press or waffle maker and serve with arugula salad.
- Eggplant Antipasto: On a big serving plate, place eggplant, thick slices of fresh mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, and grilled peppers, zucchinis, and asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil, crack fresh pepper and sea salt over top, and sprinkle generously with fresh basil. This can be a family-style appetizer for the table.
- Red Sauce: Make a simple marinara sauce but add some sticks of eggplant before serving. Use it on your pasta, grilled chicken, or steak.