Home About Recipes Articles Cookbooks Links Subscribe
Mediterranean Caviar
    The following spread, served cool on toasted slices of French bread, is a combination of eggplant caviar and the famous samfaina of Catalonia. Samfaina is a ratatouille-style garnish of tomatoes, onions, peppers, and eggplant cooked down to a marmalade and used to accompany fish, poultry, and meat.  Though its ingredients are classically Mediterranean, a really first-rate samfaina is not easy to make.  The Catalan food commentator Josef Pla has called it "a dish of optimism."  Made properly in autumn, when its component vegetables are in a state of absolute perfection, it becomes a truly great thing-- great enough, to paraphrase Pla, to give one optimism about the possibility of perfection on this earth.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
1 eggplant (1 1/4 pounds) firm, smooth-skinned
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 large, fleshy sweet red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into small squares
1 small green bell pepper, cored, stemmed, seeded, and cut into small cubes
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped,  or 1/2 cup drained canned plum tomatoes, seeds discarded
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 flat anchovy fillets, drained and crushed with a fork
  salt and freshly ground pepper to taste



1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Prick the eggplant; brush it with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and place it in a baking dish.  Bake 40 minutes, turning midway.  Place the peppers (red and green) in a baking dish and set in the oven to bake for 20 minutes, stirring them midway, too.

2.  Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over low heat in a heavy skillet; add the onion and 3 tablespoons of water, and cook, stirring , for 10 minutes.  Add the tomato and cook until very thick, about 5 minutes.  Add the baked peppers and the garlic, and cook over  a low heat, stirring, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.  Fold in the anchovies and cook 1 to 2 minutes.  Leave the mixture in the skillet off the heat.

3.  Remove the eggplant when it is completely soft and the skin is blistery.  Scrape the flesh from the skin (this is very easy if you first split the cooked eggplant lengthwise while still hot, then allow it to cool for 10 minutes under a kitchen towel).  Discard any hard seeds and the skin. (See note.)

4.  On a wooden work surface, mash the eggplant with a wooden spoon until smooth.  At the same time work in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the eggplant, salt, and pepper to the other vegetables.  Fry, constantly stirring, until all the liquid evaporates and there are only oil and vegetables left, about 15 minutes.  Stir carefully to avoid scorching but be sure to allow the mixture to become somewhat dark in color.  Season to taste.  Cool, cover, and refrigerate the mixture until you are ready to serve.  Return it to room temperature before serving.

Note to the Cook:
However carefully you select them, some eggplants will be extremely bitter.  After scraping off the baked skin, taste the flesh; if necessary squeeze the warm pulp through the fingers to remove the bitter juices.

[Home] [About] [Recipes] [Articles] [Cookbooks] [Links] [Subscribe]
©1999—2006 Paula Wolfert