When I came home with a small pile of beautiful tiny eggplants, my husband made an emergency phone call to his mother in Egypt to ask her for her pickled eggplant recipe. I have never seen him waiting so eagerly for food as while he spent a whole half hour waiting for the eggplants to soak in their flavorful brine.
Fortunately, this is the fastest pickle I’ve ever made. It is also one of the most flavorful. These eggplants are picante. If you don’t care for the heat, leave out the red chili flakes. In Egypt these are often served with grilled fish, or another dish in which equal parts of white rice and red lentils are cooked together in the same pot. Of course, they can also be enjoyed on their own, as they were in our home last night.
- About 1 1/2 lb. small, thin eggplants. They should be as thin as possible, certainly no more than 2 inches wide, but ideally much thinner.
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 1/16 – 1/8 tsp. crushed chili pepper flakes or 1 mild chili pepper, minced (optional)
- juice of 1 lemon and/or about 3 Tbsp. vinegar
- water to cover
- Peel back the eggplant leaves and cut off most of the stems, leaving just a little of the stem base in place so that the flesh of the eggplant is not exposed.
- Boil the eggplants 20-30 minutes, until quite tender. Allow them to cool until they are cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, smash the garlic, salt, and chili pepper to a paste with a mortar and pestle. Once the paste is ready, mix 1/8 cup of water into this mixture.
- Make a deep slit in each eggplant from one end to another. Do not cut all the way through; each eggplant should have a crack like a hot dog bun closed on both ends.
- Divide about half of the garlic mixture evenly among the eggplant slits. Within each slit, be sure that the garlic mixture is spread from end to end.
- Place the eggplants in a bowl that holds them tightly in a single layer. Cover with cool tap water. Add the remaining garlic mixture and lemon juice and/or vinegar to the water and swirl around.
- Wait 30 whole minutes then remove the eggplant from the liquid.
- Serve the eggplants whole. Typically they will be pulled apart along the slit while they’re being eaten, as shown above.
- To store leftovers, cover and refrigerate. They should not be stored in the liquid.