Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cured by Oil

I believe that Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation is the best pickling book in the English language. The encouragement to experiment and play works for me. That said, I like to look to traditional Japanese pickling books for specifics on methods and flavor combinations. But a little book called Quick Pickles, by some guys who run a restaurant in Massachusetts, has proven to be my favorite of the moment because of tricks like flavoring turnips with gin. Yum!

Two oil-pickle recipes in this book impressed me greatly this week. I was excited reading them, and much more worked up after tasting them: Pickled Peaches in the Style of India, which the authors have promised will get even better with age, and Pickled Eggplant with Mint and Honey, a Greek recipe.

Because you've already used all your peaches making tarts, I'll give you the delish eggplant recipe here.
Pickled Eggplant with Mint and Honey*
  • 1 pound small eggplants, blossom ends trimmed, cut into rounds about 3/8 inch thick
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp agave syrup (better than honey!)
  • 1/2 c or more cold pressed olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/3 c coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 or 3 small fresh chilies of your choice, diced. (I used cayennes to get the color as well as the spice.)
Salt eggplant slices and let stand for 30 to 45 minutes. Wipe "sweat" off slices with a towel. Preheat broiler or prepare grill.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, vinegar, and agave, combining well. Brush the mixture onto the eggplant slices, then brush on about 1/4 c of the oil. The eggplant will act like a sponge, and you want it to absorb the flavors before sealing their surfaces with oil. Place the eggplant on the grill or under the broiler until it has softened a bit, but is not fully cooked, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Remove from heat, and sprinkle with the garlic, mint, zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Layer tightly into a jar with chilies and enough oil to coat everything. Cover and refrigerate, turning the jar every couple of days to distribute the oil.

These pickles are most delicious served at room temperature, and will keep for at least a month.

*Thanks to Ms. Adventures in Italy for the pickled eggplant picture.

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