Apologies to POD’s mother, but early memories of eggplants bring thoughts of bowling to mind, rather than eating. Those gargantuan, spongy, fibrous, gooey, tasteless monstrosities were more suited for tossing at pins (say, the stringy wrist-thick wild asparagus that grew in the field) than sticking in your mouth.
All that changed with the discovery of Thai eggplants at Philly’s Number 1 Oriental Supermarket at 6th and Washington. These little guys actually have flavor of their own, possess a satisfying crunch, and are completely devoid of spongy goo.
Although this is only the second meal produced from the Udmalbet and Bambinos, it’s a keeper.
Adapted from Casa Moro (2004) by Sam and Sam Clark
3 udmalbet and 6 baby bambino eggplants
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbs pine nuts
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbs balsamic with a pinch of sugar
1-2 tbs fresh oregano, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450
1) Slice eggplants into cubes the size of sugar cubes, then sprinkle with the fine salt. Leave to sit in a colander for at least 20 minutes, then blot dry with paper towel. Toss with half the olive oil, spread out on a large baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes until they start to brown and are completely tender.
2) Put the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium to low heat. Add the onion, pine nuts and a pinch of salt to the pan and soften for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) Add the garlic and dried oregano and cook until the garlic, onions and pine nuts have taken on an amber color — be careful not to burn anything.
4) Add the cooked eggplant to the pan, increase the heat slightly and stir briskly for a minute or two.
5) Stir in the vinegar and most of the fresh oregano and cook for two minutes more, until some of the pungency of the vinegar has gone. Taste for seasoning, and serve with the remaining fresh oregano scattered on top.