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Eggplant caviar, Southern-style recipe

Unfiltered (a.k.a.unrefined) sunflower oil contains a small amount of sediment, which gives it the distinctive aroma of toasted sunflower seeds. Although unsuitable for frying or other cooking (since heat destroys the aroma and burns the sediment), it is used for dressing salads as well as for drizzling. Ordinary supermarkets generally do not carry unfiltered oils, but unfiltered sunflower oil is available at Russian stores. Although there is rarely enough sediment to settle out, unfiltered oil should be dark yellow and just slightly cloudy.

4 large eggplants (or equivalent by weight);
1 green bell pepper, chopped;
1 red bell pepper, chopped;
5 Roma tomatoes;
4 garlic cloves, pressed;
1 Spanish onion, minced;
2 tbsp vegetable oil;
juice of 1/2 lemon;
pinch red pepper flakes;
1 tbsp unfiltered sunflower oil (see comments);
1 tbsp chopped cilantro;
salt to taste
measures conversion [+]

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Wipe the eggplants with a moist paper towel and stab each one with a fork in several places (otherwise the eggplants will explode during cooking). Bake the eggplants, turning every 20 minutes or so, until they collapse and their skin becomes wrinkled, about 1 hour. While the eggplants are still hot, slice them horizontally into quarters, scrape off the pulp, and place it in a sieve set over a colander. Set aside until the pulp has cooled completely. (It is extremely important to let the pulp drain, because eggplant oils are bitter.) Discard the skins. Once the eggplant pulp has cooled and drained, finely chop it to make a smooth mash with seeds intact. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Immerse the tomatoes and stew, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Drain and mash the tomatoes, and push them through a sieve. Discard the skins and seeds remaining in the sieve. Cover the tomato sauce and set aside. Warm the vegetable oil in a deep skillet. Add the pepper flakes and onion and saute, stirring, until the onion is golden in color, about 10 minutes. Add the bell peppers and saute, stirring, for 5-8 more minutes. Add the eggplant pulp, reduce the flame, cover, and cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for 30 minutes. (Add more oil if necessary.) Add tomato sauce and garlic, stir to blend, and cook, covered for 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Adjust the salt, cover, and let cool for approximately 40 minutes. Before serving, stir in lemon juice and unfiltered sunflower oil. (A pinch of cayenne may also be added.) Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with toasts or lavash. "Caviar" may be served cold or slightly warm.

Cuisine: Russian
Source: Redisca
Recipe category: Appetizers > Vegetables, Vegetable-Dishes > Other

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