Mulinciana a schibecci
Spicy eggplant spread
If you know caponata, you will recognize this preparation as they are in the same family. This Sicilian dish captures an essential Mediterranean taste, one you will not forget. The dish gets its name because of the use of vinegar and its preserving effect. The recipe is labor intensive, so it makes a good amount because it can be eaten as an antipasto, on top of pasta, smeared on a toasted square of bread, or on top of pizza. You can keep the eggplant ceviche in the refrigerator for weeks.
2 large eggplants, about 4 pounds, cut into ¼ inch rounds, then each slice cut in half
6 to 8 cups olive oil for frying
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 leafy sprig fresh basil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup good quality white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup finely diced caciocavallo or sharp provolone cheese
Prepare the eggplant: Place the eggplant slices on a rack over a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt. Let them sit for 30 minutes to allow the salt to collapse some the air cells so the eggplant doesn't absorb as much olive oil when frying. Blot dry.
Fry the Eggplant: In a large sauté pan or electric home deep-fryer, heat 6 to 8 cups olive oil to 370 F. Cook the eggplant half rounds in batches until golden brown, about three minutes a side. Make sure you don’t crowd the fryer or pan, otherwise the temperature of the frying oil will drop and you’ll end up with a lot of greasy vegetables. You may have to cook the eggplant in up to six or seven batches. When they are cooked, remove them from the fry basket and leave to cool and drain on a paper towel-lined sheet pan.
Make the sauce: For the tomato sauce, heat a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil in a pan with the chopped garlic over medium-high heat. After the garlic sizzles for 10 seconds, add the tomatoes.
Reduce the heat to medium; chop or mash the canned tomatoes further with a fork while they’re in the pan, add the fresh basil and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until denser, about 20 minutes.
Make the dish: in a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until tender and lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved cooked eggplant, gently lifting and folding them in rather than stirring, but don’t worry if they break.
2. Dissolve the sugar in the white wine vinegar and add it to the casserole and let cook five minutes. Add the tomato sauce and incorporate it gently then reduce the heat to medium-low and let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes, folding occasionally, not stirring.
Add the mint, the black pepper, and the cheese, lifting and folding rather than stirring. Cook for 1 minute then check the seasonings and transfer to a platter. Serve at room temperature.