One of my first friends in the San Lorenzo market in Florence was Benita, the mamma at Porks. Originally it was a tiny corner kitchen, with sandwiches. I started to notice young men bringing her fish or a slice of meat and she would disappear in the back and saute’ up their food for them for lunch. Little by little her stand expanded to a large selection of prepared foods, many recipes from her home, Sicily. Her son joined her and they also started serving porchetta sandwiches and named the place “PORKS”. She shared one of my favorite recipes, her marinated eggplant.
Melanzane Grigliate (Benita’s Grilled Egglant)
The secret to a fabulous flavor is the vinaigrette. Hot and cold attract, so while the eggplant is hot, the cold vinaigrette soaks in, giving the eggplant a fresh flavor instead of soaking up just oil! For a nice variation, use mint instead of oregano!
1 or 2 large eggplants
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Chili pepper flakes
Slice the eggplant widthwise into 1/2-inch slices.
(If your eggplants tend to be bitter, you can layer them in a colander sprinkled with sea salt or kosher salt, put a plate on top and weigh them down for about an hour, until the bitter waters are drawn out. Rinse and pat dry.)
Prepare a Sicilian vinaigrette. Mix 1/4-cup of good red wine vinegar with 1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil, some minced garlic, oregano, and salt.
Grill the eggplant on a stove-top grill, barbecue, or sauté in a non-stick skillet using extra virgin olive oil as needed.
When the eggplant is cooked, remove from the grill and immediately place in the vinaigrette. Turn to dip both sides and place in a serving dish.
Once cooked, you can serve the eggplant with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top.
I always prepare enough to keep in the fridge for sandwiches, antipasti or snacking. I also like to layer the eggplant with thin slices of garlic and then cover with extra virgin olive oil.
When chillis are in season, Benita always uses fresh chili pepper slices on top for an extra kick!