Eggplant Caviar Odessa Style

In the midst of the war, despite the tragic events described in my post Hello, Ovid! Я вам не скажу про всю Одессу… (war edition), the inimitable quirky Odessa sense of humor keeps the spirit strong. The following photos were taken in Odessa a few days ago:

Tossing trash on the street, don’t forget to oink,” reminds this sign, while the next one, while also garbage-related, admonishes:

“Respected tenants, have conscience, discard your garbage in the neighboring yard.”

The next sign was captured at the famous Odessa farm market Privoz:

Don’t massage” on gorgeous “Fontanski” tomatoes is much more pleasant than the standard “Don’t touch,” isn’t it?

Potatoes also get some attention:

As delicious, as meat,” claims the audacious vendor. But let’s leave the market and visit one of the foremost tourist attractions, the beach:

Respected tourists, be careful on water. Lifeguards’ pay is meager; they have better things to do than to save you.” It’s not vicious, Beautiful People, it’s simply funny, because, as stated on an official billboard,

Odessa is not really a city – it’s G-d’s smile.”

I am repeating this typical and beloved Odessa recipe that could enhance Passover table with some uniquely Odessa flavor.

There are so many different eggplant recipes! Baked, and fried, and grilled, and stuffed, and spiced and seasoned in a myriad of ways. Truly, eggplant is the most versatile of all vegetables. And not one of those is the one that every woman in Odessa puts on her table. Ok, there is Spanish eggplant that comes pretty close, but still, it’s not the taste that we all knew and loved. So even though I like playing with eggplant in all kinds of ways, like making rollatini, or babaganoush, or stuffed pickled eggplant, and at some point in the future I’ll probably write them up and post them, but Odessa style eggplant was not called Eggplant Caviar for nothing. Taste it, and you’ll see why!

Eggplant Odessa 1.jpg

I got this lovely firm purple eggplant (in Odessa, they were called sini – the blue ones – I’ve never figured out why). While I already have my oven on broil to make marinated peppers, I might as well use the oven to bake the eggplant. It takes very little time, but you have to turn it every couple of minutes or so, to get uniform texture throughout. If the skin appears burnt a little, don’t worry, it’s actually good. It makes it easier to scrape the “meat” out and it adds a hint of a smoky flavor.

Eggplant Odessa 2.jpg

When it is ready and cooled off sufficiently so you can work with it without burning your fingers, this is what it should look like when you open it. It should be quite soft but still springy rather than watery. If it feels watery, put it under press for a few minutes and then squeeze the excess water out. My prep is all ready: squeezed garlic, diced tomatoes (excess liquid poured off), salt, pepper, olive oil, fresh cilantro. To start making eggplant caviar, you need to scoop or scrape the “meat” out of the skin. I’ve seen people scoop it out with a spoon, but I prefer to scrape it with a knife. Cutting the eggplant into quarters lengthwise makes it very easy. However, it could be done in any which way comfortable to the doer.

Eggplant Odessa 4

Now comes the important part. You need a meat cleaver, or at least a very wide and heavy knife.  On the cutting board, start chopping and folding. Continue until it is somewhat mixed but still very chunky. Make a well in the middle, pour olive oil into it, cover it with garlic, salt and pepper. Resume chopping and folding, making sure that not a drop of oil escapes.

Eggokant Odessa 5.jpg

Make a well in the middle again and add diced tomato and cilantro. Keep chopping and folding until you get a chunky but well mixed mass. I can’t offer an exact standard here since it always depends on individual taste, and perhaps there could be another method of doing it instead of killing it with a meat cleaver, but I’ve never seen it prepared in any other way. I did try a food processor once, and it was a disaster to top all food disasters! What came out was a watery mess, and in a matter of minutes more liquid separated itself from the solid mess. So don’t do it, people! If you want to have a real Odessa Caviar, kill it with a meat cleaver first.

There are many songs about Odessa, but this one, from the musical The White Acacia by Isaac Dunaevsky became one of the symbols of Odessa. Even the grand clock on top of the city hall chimed a few bars of this song every hour: “You are in my heart, you are always with me, my Odessa!” Listen to Odessa sound and marvel at the beauty of Odessa architecture, while you are enjoying Odessa Caviar.

Eggplant Odessa 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 lb)
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves, squeezed
  • 1/4 cup or more diced tomato (if you like more tomato, make sure you drain the juice off very well)
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

PROCEDURE

  • Broil eggplant for 9 – 10 minutes, about 2 -3 minutes on each side (4 sides).
  • Let it cool off and scoop or scrape the “meat” out of the skin.
  • Using meat cleaver or a wide heavy knife, chop and fold it on the cutting board for a minute or two, until it is somewhat mixed.
  • Make a well in the middle, pour olive oil, cover it with garlic, sprinkle salt and pepper. Continue chopping and folding for another minute or two.
  • Make a well in the middle again, add diced tomato and cilantro. Continue chopping and folding until the mass looks a little chunky but well integrated.

Enjoy!

27 Comments Add yours

    1. Thank you very much.

      Like

    1. Thank you very much for reblogging, dear Edward.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. lifelessons says:

    If I were your neighbor, I would write you a poem in return for a small portion of your eggplant caviar!!! I am getting lazier and lazier when it comes to cooking, mainly because food tastes less and less good. Is it just age? Perhaps. Or perhaps I am just tired of the same tastes over and over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish I could send it to you, dear Judy! You need new culinary adventures, that’s all.

      Like

    2. P.S. Our neighbor takes care of the cats when we are away and gets a cake in return when I come back. I would take a poem any time (hint, hint…)

      Like

  2. At least you can smile

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We always smile. From another famous Odessa song: “But I don’t cry, I never cry; I laugh and can’t do otherwise because I am Odessa-born.”
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Derrick.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. BERNADETTE says:

    “Smile, though your heart is breaking…”🌻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much for understanding, dear Bernadette! Many blessings,
      D

      Liked by 1 person

      1. BERNADETTE says:

        Sending hugs🌻

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Gail says:

    Eggplant is delicious. Thanks for sharing a new way to prepare it. 🍃🍆

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Gail – enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. lghiggins says:

    I love the Odessa sense of humor!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Linda.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Eggplant is a deligjt.

    My heart aches for the world situation right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your compassion, dear Mimi!

      Like

  7. purpleslob says:

    “Don’t kill it with a butcher knife.” You’re so funny! CC thought the oink , you’re a pig! sign was hysterical! I love you, my dearest feline person!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad you had a couple of chuckles, my favorite purple person!
      Love you right back and more!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging, dear Michael.

      Like

  8. My last eggplant dish was about ten years in the past. Thanks for the reminder, Dolly! The written jokes are wonderful ironic, and also thoughtful. xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We do have our brand of humor, Michael. That’s what makes us strong! Thank you for reblogging and commenting.

      Like

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