Saturday, August 27, 2016

EGGPLANT IN A PICKLE

It´s an eggplant sort of summer. After tomatoes, eggplant are my go-to fruit/vegetable, day-in and day-out. I’ve prepared them grilled on a wood fire and on a plancha, stewed with other vegetables and chicken in pisto, sandwiched with cheese and fried, stuffed with meat, in a smooth timbale  pudding. Even layered with cheese for a microwave eggplant parm.


Pickled eggplant fill clay orzas at a market in La Mancha.
Picking some very small eggplant in my garden, I suddenly remembered the pickled eggplant that I tasted in La Mancha. Known as Berenjena de Almagro, they are a very small variety native to the region that are pickled and conserved in big clay orzas, vats. Grown in and around the town of Almagro, in the Campo de Calatrava (Ciudad Real province, La Mancha, central Spain), the eggplant have their own Indicación Geografica Protegida. Almagro is a gem of town, with a Plaza Mayor enclosed by graceful old buildings, one of which houses the Corral de Comedias, a 16th century theater.

Almagro eggplant are small, egg-shaped and mostly green in color.

The famous pickled eggplant are made with tiny (2-3 inch-) round green eggplant. Speared on short lengths of wild fennel, they are prepared whole, with stem and some of calyx attached, or split and stuffed with roasted red pepper.

I’ve made this pickle before using wedges of regular eggplant, but decided to try using small, whole ones this time. Mine are not quite as small as the Manchego ones, and definitely purple, not green. They came out just fine.

"Official" Almagro eggplant from a can.

For comparison, I’ve also got a can of the real deal, pickled eggplant from Almagro. (In the US, you can order them from La Tienda.)



Pickled eggplant from Almagro (La Mancha). Fennel flowers are an optional garnish.

Bite the eggplant nubbin.

The eggplant are served, like olives, as a tapa. You pick them up by the stem and eat the eggplant nubbin. Due to the vinegar content, they go better with beer than with wine. They also make a good relish with grilled or roasted meat and fried foods. I’m going to serve them with a mess of pan-grilled lamb chops.


Serve pickled eggplant as a tapa with beer.



Pickled eggplant embuchadas, stuffed with red pepper and speared with fennel stems.

Eggplant from my garden are larger than the ones from Almagro.

Pickled Eggplant, Almagro Style
Berenjenas de Almagro

If you can get it, use the stems of wild fennel to skewer the eggplant. The fennel adds a subtle flavor to the marinade. Otherwise, use short wooden or bamboo skewers. For the roasted red pepper, you can use canned pimiento.

Mine are purple, not green.
6-8 very small eggplant (2 pounds)
Salt
8 cloves garlic, not peeled
2 tablespoons sweet pimentón (paprika)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon fennel seed, optional
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Roasted red pepper strips
1 ½ cups white wine vinegar
2 cups water
Skewers


Wash the eggplant well. Trim the stems. Snip off the spiny tips of the leaves, but don’t remove them. Slice the eggplant lengthwise, without cutting all the way through, leaving the two halves attached at the stem end.

Put the eggplant in a pan of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook the eggplant 10-12 minutes, or until they are just tender when tested with a skewer. Drain and rinse them in cold water.

Lightly crush the cloves of garlic, but do not peel them. Place them in a bowl with the pimentón, cumin, fennel seed, if using, oil and 1 tablespoon salt. Add the strips of roasted red pepper and mix.

Stuff one or two strips of red pepper into the slits of the eggplant and skewer them closed. Place them in a non-reactive bowl or jar (ceramic or glass). Add the vinegar and water to the remaining garlic-pimentón blend. Pour the marinade over the eggplant. Cover and leave in a cool place for 3 days. They are ready to eat. The eggplant keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks.

In a vinegar marinade, the tiny eggplant keep for weeks.

Other recipes with eggplant:

2 comments:

  1. I made these yesterday and couldn't wait three days to try them. Grabbed one of these puppy's this morning and OMG, they are WONDERFUL even after a day. I can only imagine what they'll be like in another two. Thank you for the recipe!!

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    Replies
    1. Denise: So glad you like the recipe. I think I'll try some more pickled vegetables---

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