Eggplant is at its seasonal peak – which rekindles good memories of a trip we took a few years back to Puglia (POOL-ya), in southern Italy. There, fruits and veggies grow prolifically in backyard gardens. Fresh produce is so important that local residents throw festivals to honor artichokes, cherries, figs, peaches, and more. Fruits and veggies also are available at farmers’ markets, where we shopped. We’d take our bounty home and cook it like the locals, including this fried eggplant we made there. (Click here to see the recipe.)
We should first mention that it wasn’t easy to find the farmers’ markets. There aren’t a lot of travel books on Puglia, an arid, beautiful place. Also, very few people speak English, and the road signs aren’t much help. Consequently, we got lost practically every time we ventured out in the car.
One way or another, however, we managed to find our way to the market – and back home to prepare our meal in our rental house. Extra virgin olive oil usually played a starring role in our cooking. That’s partly because Puglia is such a large producer of the stuff.
“In Puglia we’ve got it on tap. We’re lucky,” one local resident told us.
The recipe here is featured in a book we brought with us: Puglia: A Culinary Memoir (Orzono Editions, 2008), by Maria Pignatelli Ferrante. The eggplant is sliced about a quarter-inch thick. The slices are fried in a “generous” amount of olive oil.
The cooked slices are transferred to a plate and sprinkled with minced garlic, sea salt, fresh mint, and a dash of wine vinegar. (Click here to see the recipe.)
The speed at which this dish comes together – and the flavor – more than made up for any time we spent getting lost while buying the eggplant.
Your friends at California Olive Ranch