6 servings or more as a side dish; 12 or more as an antipasto
Many people love eggplant but dread the frying of it and don’t like all the oil the eggplant absorbs. I am a lifelong eggplant lover but I do like to eat—and cook for my family—in a healthy way. So I like this preparation which gives you all the good flavor of eggplant without the frying: you poach small eggplant wedges in water and red wine vinegar, then season and marinate the soft wedges with fresh mint, garlic, and a few drizzles of olive oil. After an hour, the layers of bright flavor in each slice are developed and you have a delicious and versatile dish.
- For Poaching:
- 2-1/4 pounds small, firm eggplants (preferably 6 to 8 ounces each)
- 2 cups red wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
- 10 cups water
- For Marinating:
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon shredded fresh mint leaves (15 to 20 small leaves)
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Prepping and Poaching the Eggplant:
Trim the stem and bottom (blossom) end of the eggplants. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, then slice each half into wedges, about 1-1/2 inches wide on the outside (peel side). You should have 30 or more wedges.
Pour the wine and water into the pot, cover, and heat quickly until boiling. Drop in all the eggplant slices, cover and return the liquid to the boil rapidly, then set the cover ajar and adjust the heat so it’s at a moderate boil.
Push the eggplant under the surface frequently, shifting the pieces around a bit so they all poach evenly. After about 10 minutes, reduce the heat so the liquid is perking gently and won’t break up the softening wedges. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the flesh of the eggplant appears completely translucent—any opaque streaks means it is not cooked through. Don’t cook any longer than necessary; as soon as they are done, turn off the heat and carefully lift the wedges out of the liquid with a wide perforated spatula or strainer—let the liquid drain off briefly—and lay them on the sheet. Spread the slices apart from each other in one layer and let them cool for a few minutes.
Marinating the Eggplant:
Using a paring knife cut out the stuck-together mass of seeds on each slice and discard, taking care not to tear the flesh; don’t worry if a few seeds are left.
As you seed them, lay 1/3 of the wedges in the small gratin dish in one layer top them with the seasonings: sprinkle on 1/3 of the salt and 1/3 of the mint leaf shreds; scatter 1/3 of the garlic slices and drizzle 1/3 of the oil all over. Arrange and season two more layers of eggplant in the same way.
Marinate the eggplant for about an hour at room temperature before serving or using in a dish (though they’ll be tasty in 30 minutes if you need them sooner.)
If you’re making this ahead for serving the next day, seal the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate; remove at least an hour before using so it comes to room temperature. To keep after the second day, remove the garlic slices from the dish, wrap and refrigerate; use within a week.