Hot. Cool. Yours: Baklazhannaya Ikra (Eggplant Caviar)

Continuing my Russian food program is my all time favorite: Baklazhannaya Ikra (Eggplant Caviar). My Dad makes it all the time and I can eat the entire thing in one sitting. 

A word of advice: this is a recipe that you need to plan for in advance. The eggplant takes hours to sweat, and Ikra is served cold. This is something you should prepare at least a day ahead, it stores well in the fridge.

2 Large Eggplants*
1 Onion, chopped
3 Cloves of Garlic, minced (or use a garlic press)
12oz Can of Diced Tomatoes** (Italian brand of course)
Salt/Pepper to taste
½ C Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Olive Oil

Get a pan large enough to hold all of your ingredients. Gently sauté the Onion and the Garlic in a bit of Olive Oil. In a separate pan, brown the sweated* Eggplant slices on both sides (you just want a nice color, you’re not cooking it through). Slice into cubes. Add the Eggplant cubes to the Onion and Garlic, turn down the heat. Sauté for several minutes, checking it all the time since Eggplant sucks up moisture like a sponge and you don’t want to burn it. Add Salt/Pepper to taste. Add Canned Tomatoes. Stir. Turn the heat to low or simmer, cover the pan. Cook until the Eggplant is soft and the whole mixture is the color of caramel. Once it’s cooled, add Cilantro.

Serve at room temperature or chilled. If you taste it and it's super sweet (eggplants that are in season tend to get a sweet if prepared properly) add some vinegar – I prefer balsamic. You can serve Ikra with crostini or as a side dish. It is also the perfect rescue side for a dry piece of skinless chicken breast.

* How to prep the Eggplant: Remove all skin and cut into long slices, about ½'' thick. Put a large colander into the sink, line in single layer, sprinkle very generously with salt. After several hours, the eggplant will be sweating (you will see water running off slowly) and have a brownish coloring to it. I usually give it about 2-3 hours. Rinse with hot water and pat dry. The reason you sweat the eggplant is to remove all that bitterness. There is a “bit” faster method of doing it, but it requires a lot more work and a lot more pots and pans.

** You can substitute with fresh tomatoes, but they have to be full of flavor and need to be skinned first. If you have nothing else to do in the summer and your garden is exploding with tomatoes, go right ahead. You’ll need about 2-3 large ones, depending on size.

Priyatnovo Apetita! (Happy Appetites, or Enjoy your food!)

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