quick melanzane sott’olio

let’s be honest, if you’re a home cook who likes to put some effort in your meals, epecially for guests, it might start to get a little tyring… this whole ‘trying to outdo yourself everytime’ thing, i mean. you always want a perfect meal, you always want your guests to ‘aah’ and ‘oooh’. you need their feedback. but hands down, sometimes, you just lack the time to produce something impressive. or you simply lack a good idea. or passion. or everything of the above.
so, what i’m relying on when my kitchen passions desert me for a day (max, of course) but i’m still having friends over for dinner, are really fresh ingredients (obviously) and basic dieshes (eep! yes, indeed). something like a good plateful of spaghetti with freshly added tomatoes (of course, you rarely get to see those, as it’s really a more than trivial…). sometimes, a home-made addition, e.g. a home pickled preserves, to an otherwise fast and simple (read: not really impressive) meal will also go a long way. for me, that means starting things off with a variety of easy, marinated antipasti. 
the italians are good at canning and pickling; everything comes in sott’ olio (marinated in oil). that’s of course great for a fast dinner – but let’s be honest; pickling takes time, too… i could pickle all summer, for all it’s worth. but if you don’t have any pickled antipasti on hand, why not try it the quick and fresh way, and spare the long, dead weeks of endless wating? for a show-offy kind of appetizer the italian way, you could use zucchini (that’s one of my favorite dishes btw, i still want to eat it) or home grilled and marinated melanzane (aubergines). grill the veg, add some fresh herbs, good salt, freshly ground black pepper and lemon zest, marinate everything sott’ olio for an hour (in good, extra virgin olive oil, of course) while you’re preparing the less-than-impressive pasta… – and you’re done. italianità in a jiffy! and you can always outdo yourself the next time. happy weekend, friends!
quick melanzane sott’olio

2 medium aubergines, washed and cut into long thin slices
3 tbsp. olive oil for frying, plus more for marinating (about 1/2 cup)
1 lemon, zest and some of the juice
1 tbsp. salt 
fleur de sel
freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
handful fresh thyme, leaves removed
start by salting the aubergine slices from both sides. put them in a colander and leave to drain (the salt will remove the water) for 15 minutes. afterwards remove any exccess salt and pat dry. heat the olive oil in a large grill pan. fry each slice (don’t overcrowd the pan) for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until desired brownness is reached. remove fram pan and put in a bowl and season each slice with fleur de sel and pepper, and brush with more olive oil. add parts of the lemon zest and a few drops of the juice, too. continue frying the other slices and proceed in the same way. when done, quickly fry the garlic and thyme leaves in the pan with the leftover oil. pour the oil over the aubergines. leave to marinate for an hour at room temperature and serve with some flatbread.
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