My obsession with melanzane sott'olio began on a summer trip to the Aeolian Island of Salina. My brother bought a jar of the pickled, oil-packed eggplant from a woman selling it out of her living room window, and, paying a hefty eight euros for it, we thought we might have just been a couple of suckered tourists. But we opened the jar for lunch, along with some cured meats, cheese, and bread, and suddenly we found ourselves trying to not eat all of it in one sitting. The strips of eggplant were firm and almost chewy, tasting lightly of brine and heavily of the olive oil and herbs used in the marinade. I haven't quite figured out how this woman mastered the texture of the eggplant (mine is definitely softer), but I've managed to hit on a taste close to what I remember, at least enough so that it should hold me over until I can get back to Salina and buy this woman's supply out. - vvvanessa —vvvanessa
Test Kitchen Notes
A fleeting crush on aubergines (eggplants) blossoms into full-fledged romance with vvvanessa’s Melanzane sott’olio all’eoliana. There’s something about the way the discs ‘perk’ up in the pickling liquid, transforming from dark purple to bright. I’ve enjoyed the melanzane, slice by slice. It is delicious, meaty, fragrant and well-flavoured. I suspect it will make a die-hard aubergine romantic out of me. Note: I’d recommend using less vinegar per cup of water for a subtler taste. - Kitchen Butterfly —Kitchen Butterfly
about 2 cups
medium-sized Italian eggplants, washed and dried
white wine vinegar
fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn
fresh oregano, leaves roughly chopped
dried chile flakes (Calabrian chiles if you can get your hands on them) or 4-6 whole dried chiles, sliced open
Slice the eggplants into rounds not more than 1/4" thick. Toss them with the salt so that they are evenly covered, and place them in a colander. Place the colander on a bowl or plate, then place a sheet of wax paper over the eggplant. Set a few pounds of weight on top of the wax paper; bags of dried beans or sugar or a few big cans of tomatoes will work well.
Let the eggplant sit for a good 6 hours, or ideally overnight. Gently squeeze any remaining liquid from the eggplant. Discard the liquid that drained from the eggplant.
In a large, non-reactive saucepan, bring the vinegar and water to a boil. In 3 or 4 batches, add the eggplant to the mixture, bring it back to a boil, and let it cook for about 3 minutes.
Remove the eggplant slices to a platter lined with an absorbent dish towel or paper towels. Let them drain for about 5 minutes, turn them, then let them drain for another 5 minutes.
In a minimum 1-quart capacity jar or bowl, layer the eggplant with the herbs, chiles, and garlic. Top off the layers with enough olive oil to cover the eggplant completely.
Keep the eggplant refrigerated for up to a couple of weeks, but it won't last that long. Melanzane sott'olio is a perfect addition to an antipasti platter or picnic basket and makes for a great sandwich or crostino topping. I eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all points in between.