Eggplant Caviar (Baklazhanaya Ikra)
Also known in Russia as the Poor Man’s Caviar, but in today’s terms, I’d call it The Russian Salsa. Italians call it Aubergine Caponata.
When Europeans first encountered this fruit, it had already gained an intimidating reputation with its ‘mad apple’, ‘mala insane’ label. Historians believe the eggplant has its origins in India, but there are also early written accounts from a 5th century Chinese record.
If a Russian friend invites you for a dinner at his/her home, promising to treat you to some caviar, don't expect a bowl of fish eggs. You will most likely end up helping yourself to a brown mass of suspicious looking stuff. Never mind the suspicions. Not only is this caviar appetizing, but some even think it is as delicious as the real thing.
It’s an old favorite in Russia. A thick, pureed mixture of roasted eggplant and vegetables. It's served cold as a spread.
2 large eggplants
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1-1/2 cups of finely chopped onions
1/2 cup of finely chopped carrots
1 cup of finely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 a cup of chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon sugar 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (or ketchup)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (or balsamic vinegar)
1 teaspoon of salt a dash of black pepper (fresh is better)
1 small jar of crushed tomatoes, un-drained
- Preheat your oven to 180*c (350*f).
- Wash the eggplants and vegetables. Pierce the eggplants with a fork and cut remaining vegetables.
- Place eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender. If possible turn the eggplants over during roasting. Let them cool slightly (they will deflate like tires).
- Meanwhile, saute the onions in the olive oil until soft but not brown. Then add the chopped carrots, peppers and garlic until all softens. Set aside.
- Peel the eggplants and chop the pulp finely. Add to the frying pan along with the crushed tomatoes, ketchup, parsley, sugar and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Cover but stir occasionally.
- Remove the cover from the frying pan and continue to simmer until the excess liquid has evaporated; the mass should be thick but not dry. Continue to stir occasionally for 15 minutes. At this point, stir in the lemon juice and black pepper.
- Transfer the caviar to a bowl cover, and chill in the fridge for several hours.
Serve caviar warm or chilled with assorted raw vegetables or toasted dark bread triangles.