"The Kitchen Table...is the site of all that's best in Man—his sociability, his intellect, his good humor, and his generosity—not a monument to death but a celebration of living, not the theft of life but its sharing, not the jingoistic cant that generally passes for history but here and now, together in solidarity, this very moment! I give you: The Kitchen Table!"This toast is delivered by none less than Peter Kropotkin, or at least a fictional, time-traveling version of him, though I could imagine a similar proclamation coming from the man himself.
In any event, one of the Russian specialties that we always lingered over was баклажанная икра (bak⋅la⋅zhan'na⋅ya i⋅kra'), which literally translates as, "eggplant caviar." For all that it's called "caviar," baklazhannaya ikra is a totally vegan "salad" (Russian salads rarely involve leaves) made of eggplant, tomato, pepper, onion and carrot slow-cooked together to savory perfection and seasoned with the only two herbs that really matter in Russian cuisine, dill and parsley (in Russian, respectively, укроп, "u⋅krop'" and петрушка, "pe⋅trush'ka").
Ok, enough about the words, let's get to the food. When made in Russia, it's often made in great quantity for canning; my Russian host family in Kazakhstan made upwards of 5 quarts the one time I made it with them. I never got sick eating theirs, but it has far too little acidic content for me to consider it safe for canning without a pressure-canner at this point, so quantities like that are a bit excessive. It's a simple but time-consuming process involving a lot of slow cooking (roasting the eggplant, pepper and onion, simmering all the ingredients together). I haven't experimented with doing the long, slow final simmer in the crock pot, but maybe I should. If you get there before I do, let me know how it works out.
- 1 med. European (fat) eggplant or 2 med. Asian (skinny) eggplants
- 1 med.-large onion
- 1 med.-large sweet pepper
- 1 large tomato or about 2 c. smaller tomatoes, large dice
- 1 med. carrot, grated
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½-¾ c. mixed parsley & dill, roughly chopped
- salt & pepper, to taste
Russian Eggplant Caviar (Баклажанная Икра/Baklazhannaya Ikra)vegan, grain/gluten-free
This gives you plenty of time to have the rest of the ingredients ready. If using a slicing tomato, cut into a large dice. For this batch, I used mostly small plum tomatoes and supersweet sungold cherry tomatoes, which I simply quartered. Grate the carrot, mince the garlic, and roughly chop the herbs. Once the roasted veggies are
Load the vegetables and about half the herbs into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat for 1-2 hours, until the ingredients meld into a unified mass. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add the reserved half of the herbs. Cool as long as you can stand it. This tastes best at room temperature or slightly below. Serve with a good, stout bread as an appetizer or, in true Russian form, as a nibble with drinks. You will probably also end up eating it by the spoonful, because it's just that good.