A tasty Cuban dish from Chicago chef Randy Zweiban.
Game plan: Chef Zweiban prefers slender Chinese eggplant with pale purple skin because it doesn’t need to be peeled and doesn’t have a bitter flavor, but you can substitute regular eggplant. For regular eggplant, salt the pieces, set them in a colander to drain, and place a weight on them (a small bowl works) for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Pat them dry with paper towels before using.
3 pounds Chinese eggplant
1 cup canola oil
1 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
3 cups peeled and diced tomatoes, seeds removed
2 tablespoons whole cumin, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon whole coriander seed, toasted and ground
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Wash the eggplants and cut them in half lengthwise. Slice them into half rounds about 1/4 inch thick.
In a large frying pan, heat 1/3 cup of the oil over medium-high heat, and cook a third of the eggplant in the oil until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining eggplant in two more batches, using 1/3 cup oil for each batch.
After all the eggplant is cooked, place it on a plate and set aside. Add the onion and red pepper to the pan, and cook over medium heat until soft and caramelized, about 5 minutes.
Pour off the excess oil, then add the sherry vinegar to the pan, scraping up any of the browned bits that have adhered to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Cook until the vinegar has evaporated, then add the tomatoes.
Cook the tomatoes over low heat until they are thickened and saucy. Add the cumin and coriander, then return the eggplant to the pan and continue cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir in the cilantro.
Beverage pairing:Boutari Moschofilero, Greece. This ratatouillelike dish could go with almost any wine from light red to rosé to white. The latter choice, however, is the most exciting, as the bright pick-me-up of this Greek white wine contrasts with the richness of the eggplant, and its beguiling perfume of white flowers and citrus zest lifts the whole ensemble.