Eggplant dish makes fine Lenten meal
It took me two tries to get pan-fried eggplant with basalmic, basil and capers right. Nothing was wrong with the recipe; I did a do-over because I messed up Step 1.
In my post about pasta shells with artichoke-clam sauce, I said I would try the eggplant recipe in Saveur’s March issue. Both came from “City by the Sea,” a food and travel essay by Alexander Lobrano on Marseille, France. Lobrano, who lives in Paris, says he has “carried a torch” for Marseille for 27 years. He returned to savor the food and smells of what he calls this “gruff, big-hearted mutt of a city.” I was as impressed with his story-telling as much as I was with the collection of recipes.
I have a history with eggplant. For decades, I hated it. My mom tried to get me to eat it, but I thought it was disgusting and squishy. My vegetarian friends would order it in Ashland, Portland and Seattle, and I thought it was like tofu (which I like) — largely tasteless, prone to being overcooked but ready to absorb other flavors. Then I made eggplant parmesan for one of my first Small Plates posts (Eggplant, take a bow). I came to realize that as long as I had control of the dish, eggplant could be delicious.
So I approached the Saveur recipe with confidence that the eggplant would make a fine Lenten meal — filling but meatless. And it was, even the first time, but I had some trouble reducing the basalmic to the perfect syrup-like consistency. The recipe says simmer for 15 minutes. I did, keeping a close eye on it and making sure it didn’t scorch. Fifteen minutes can be a long time, and when time was up, the reduction was too thick. In fact, as it cooled, it turned into a candy-like sauce. Though tasty, the consistency was messed up.
The next time I tried the recipe, I watched the basalmic and took it off after about eight minutes. It was perfect for a Friday night main dish with crusty french bread and arugula salad with pear, St. Agur cheese and red onions.
This recipe is served in Le Bistrot d’Edouard in Marseille, according the “City by the Sea.”
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 small eggplant (about 8 oz. each), trimmed and sliced one-third-inch thick crosswise
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp. capers
- 4 basil leaves, thinly sliced
1. Simmer vinegar over medium heat in a 1-quart saucepan until reduced to a thick syrup, about 15 minutes.
2. Heat half the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches and adding more oil as needed, fry eggplant, flipping once, until golden-brown, 5–7 minutes; transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a platter; drizzle with balsamic; garnish with capers and basil.
— Saveur, March 2014