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Category: Food

cheap and tasty stuff we love to make

Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil

Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil

I first discovered this delicious pickled eggplant dish on The Mother Earth News website. I could not believe how delicious this turned out to be, perfect on sandwiches, in a wrap, or diced and added to a salad (with some of the garlic infused oil) for a zesty kick. The flavour and texture is similar to commercially marinated artichoke hearts and, as such, can be used on pizzas as well. In fact, throw it in any recipe where you are looking for a tangy garlic addition to the flavour. You won’t be disappointed.

I’ve honoured the ingredients of the recipe as is because the flavours are amazing. However, the original recipe calls for the eggplant to be progressively pressed and drained over 3 days using a wooden grape press. With no grape press in sight I had to improvise and use my Japanese pickle press instead.

Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
My beloved and trusty Japanese Pickle Press

So instead of allowing the liquid to drain off over the 3 days as you would with a grape press, I let the eggplant ferment in it’s brine then continued on with the rest of the recipe. I’ve never tasted the original, but the fermented version is a winner in my book.

This condiment is very easy to make but it is done in 3 stages over a period of about 5 days. Then it is best left to sit for another 2 weeks to allow the flavours to mingle. The ingredients list below will yield one 500 ml jar worth of pickles so if your present supply starts getting below the halfway mark you’d better get cracking on your next batch.

Stage 1:

Peel the eggplant and slice into ¼ inch rounds and lay the rounds out on baking pans.  Thoroughly salt both sides of the pieces and let them sit for 30 minutes.

Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
Slices salted for 30 minutes

After the 30 minutes transfer the eggplant to your press–do not rinse the salt off. Allow the eggplant to sit for 3 days.

Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
Slices packed and ready to press
Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
Press on

Stage 2:

This pickle press is not as strong as a grape press so it will take a while for the liquid to release, but after 3 days your eggplant will have released enough liquid to look like this.

Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
Eggplant after being pressed for 3 days

Remove the eggplant from the brine and squeeze out any remaining liquid. Peel the pieces apart and transfer to a large glass container. Cover with enough vinegar to fully immerse the eggplant (about 2 cups) and weigh down the eggplant with a clean plate.  Cover with a clean cloth and let sit for another 2 days.

 

Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
Cover in vinegar
Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
Squeeze any remaining brine out

 

Stage 3:

Drain the eggplant slices and discard the vinegar. Gently squeeze the eggplant to remove excess vinegar. In a large bowl, mix 1/2 of the oil with the garlic, chilli flakes and oregano. Coat the eggplant in the oil and seasonings.

Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
Pickled Eggplant seasonings
Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
Make sure each piece is coated in oil

Fill your sterilized jar with the eggplant mix and cover with a ½ inch oil on top. Cap the jar and store at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks before eating.

Pickled Eggplant Slices Preserved in Olive Oil
Final product ready for storage (plus a sample from my last batch)

So this recipe takes a little time but it’s well worth the wait. Try it for yourself and let me know how it turns out.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggplants, sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 2 cups distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • a pinch of oregano
  • a pinch of red chilli flakes

Preparation

Stage 1:

  • Peel the eggplant and cut into 1/4-inch rounds. Lay the slices out across a couple of baking sheets and season both sides evenly with the salt. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  • Transfer the slices to a clean mason jar or pickle press. Pack the eggplant into the jar/press in circular, overlapping layers (do not pat dry first). Apply weights or press until eggplant is submerged in brine. Cover and let sit for 3 days.

Stage 2:

  • Remove the eggplant slices and discard the liquid.  Transfer the eggplant to a glass container and pour in enough vinegar to cover com­pletely. Let the eggplant soak for 2 days.

Stage 3:

  • Sterilize 1 500ml jar in simmering water for a few minutes.
  • Drain the eggplant slices and discard the vinegar. Gently squeeze the eggplant to remove excess vinegar.
  • In a large bowl, mix 1/2 of the oil with the garlic, chilli flakes and oregano.
  • Coat the eggplant in the oil and seasonings.
  • Create stacks of eggplant of about 1 – 1½ inches high and transfer them to the sterilized jar.
  • Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of the slices, then repeat until all of the eggplant has been added.
  • Cover the eggplant with 1/2 inch of oil, and remove any air pockets.
  • Cap the jar and leave at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks before eating.
Homemade Dill pickles done two ways

Homemade Dill pickles done two ways

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Hers and Hers Pickles: lacto fermented on the right, vinegar style on the left

Leanne favours the vinegar version but I’m more into the whole lacto fermentation process because I like the idea of having probiotic munchies on hand. I also like the mad (amateur) science that comes with lacto fermentation — things bubbling in jars is really quite interesting.

From a health perspective the lacto fermented pickles are definitely better for you (see this writeup on the benefits of probiotics here) but I’ve been hit and miss with getting a proper crunch in my final product (the lacto fermented pickles in the picture above went mushy after 4 days and had to be chucked.) Using the vinegar process to preserve the pickles may kill off some healthy vitamins and enzymes but it results in a more consistent and crunchy final product.

Speaking of final products, here is a shot of a lacto fermented pickle (about 10 days old) and a vinegar pickle (about 2 weeks old). Note the colour differences–the vinegar pickle looks like it’s been frozen in time (!) while the lacto fermented one has turned an olive green. They both had a similar crunch, but the lacto fermentation process had softened the skin of that pickle somewhat. The vinegar pickle’s skin was very crispy in comparison. Almost too crispy.

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Lacto fermented (top) vs vinegar processed (bottom)–which one’s better?

In a blind taste test Leanne wasn’t 100% sure which one was which, but still preferred the vinegar one. I liked the flavour of both, but I wished I had been able to ferment the lacto version longer because the sour taste of a long ferment is way tastier than the sour of the vinegar version. However I was afraid of another spiral into pickle mush so I put the fermented version in the fridge after 7 days. I have had successful pickle ferments in the past and I know that the longer they sit the better they get.

One final note: it is crucial that cucumbers (or any fermenting veggie) remain under the brine for duration of the fermentation. You can buy pricey designer weights or you can fill a baggie with brine and stuff it in the jar, it’s up to you. I discovered these cool plastic things (can’t remember their name) at Gourmet Warehouse which work perfectly. They work out to be about $1 per piece, which is way cheaper than having to trash a batch of pickles due to spoilage.

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Plastic, sometimes there’s no avoiding it
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Perfect for pickling

Here is a basic recipe for each style, feel free to improvise on seasonings to suit your taste.

Basic Lacto Fermented Pickle Recipe

The thing to remember with the lacto fermented version is salt ratio. I use Kosher salt and I find 1 Tbs per cup of water to be a good brine ratio. Also, the problem with mushiness is apparently remedied by the addition of tannin (ie: grape leaves, oak leaves, some people recommend adding black tea). I used bay leaves because I don’t have access to oak or grape leaves where I live.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cold fresh water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and mashed
  • 2 bay leaves, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch fresh dill weed
  • 4 or 5  fresh pickling cucumbers, washed thoroughly

2 x 500ml mason jars, washed and sanitized

Preparation

  1. Soak the cucumbers in cold water in the fridge for an hour to ensure crispness
  2. Mix the water and salt together until the salt has dissolved. You may want to heat the water slightly to help it dissolve (but let it cool before adding it to the cucumbers)
  3. Divide the dill, garlic and spices between the 2 jars
  4. Gently pack the sliced cucumbers into the jar until the jar is full. The more firmly you pack them in, the the less likely the pickles will float to the top
  5. Pour in the pickling brine to a ¼ inch from the top of the jar
  6. Secure the pickles under the brine with your handy dandy plastic thing
  7. Loosely secure the lid to allow gasses to escape
  8. Let pickles ferment for a week, checking every day to ensure pickles remain submerged. Small bubbles may appear, the brine may become cloudy and a foam may appear on the surface–all of this is normal in the fermentation process

 

Vinegar based pickle recipe

This is a fridge version recipe, which means it is not hot water canned. As the title suggests it goes straight into the fridge after packaging and is left to season for a couple of weeks. Depending on the size of your fridge, this is the easiest and fastest way to pickle with vinegar. If you are doing a bulk batch (or have no room in your fridge) you will probably want to take the recipe below and hot water can it. That way you can store it long term in your pantry, garage or other handy space.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup  vinegar
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or any non-iodized salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
  • seasonings of your choice (dill, mustard seed and peppercorns are a good base
    mix)

2 x 500ml mason jars, washed and sanitized

Preparation

  1. Soak the cucumbers whole in cold water in the fridge for an hour to ensure crispness
  2. Mix the water, vinegar sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil
  3. Divide the dill, garlic and spices between the 2 jars
  4. Cut the ends off the cucumbers and quarter them
  5. Gently pack the sliced cucumbers into the jar until the jar is full
  6. Pour the just boiled brine over the cucumbers in the jar
  7. Secure the pickles under the brine with your handy dandy plastic thing
  8. Clean the rim with a clean towel and put on the lid
  9. Try not to sample the pickles for at least a week. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 6 months

 

Have you tried making both kinds of pickles? Which style do you prefer?

Spicy seitan sausages

Spicy seitan sausages

One of my favourite guilty pleasures when I was a carnivore was the McDonalds Sausage McMuffin with Egg. Yum. I loved the salt and god knows what other chemicals were in that thing. So it was with great happiness that I discovered I was able to create a vegetarian version of that favourite using this Spicy Seitan Recipe for the sausage base. No chemicals, minimal salt and maxed out flavour.

This recipe has a mix of beans and wheat gluten flour to give the sausages a firm texture. Steaming the mix gives it a moist and chewy consistency very close to a regular meat sausage.  But the true hero in this recipe is the seasoning. It’s spicy but not too spicy, perfect with eggs as a “McMuffin” or as a regular “hot dog” with all your favourite trimmings.

Here are those spices I was talking about.

spicy seitan sausages
Paprika, chilli flakes, pepper, thyme, bay leaves and salt

Mixed with the ingredients outlined below you’ll knead it all together until the dough begins to get a “meaty” texture — that’s the gluten going to work.

spicy seitan sausages
If you could smell this photo it would smell amazing

If you’re making patties, take portions of dough about the size of a ping pong ball and flatten them as much as you can and wrap them in foil.

spicy seitan sausages
Before
spicy seitan sausages
After

Or, if you choose to make sausages, take enough dough to form a 5 inch sausage and wrap in foil like this:

Spicy Seitan Sausages
Before
Spicy Seitan Sausages
After

Steam for 30 minutes

spicy seitan sausages

And you will come out with a final product looking like this:

spicy seitan sausages
a funny looking (but delicious) sausage patty
spicy seitan sausages
Spicy seitan sausage ready to go

This is a seriously easy dish to put together and leftovers can be frozen after steaming in their foil wrappings and sealed in a ziplock baggie. Meanwhile, enjoy as a decadent hotdog lunch or a spicy accompaniment to eggs at brunch.

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Spicy Seitan Sausage with onions and Dijon Mustard

Ingredients

  • ½ cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup cold vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1¼ cups vital wheat gluten
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 bay leaves, finely crumbled
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Preparation

  1. Start a pot of water to boil for the steaming process
  2. In a large bowl, mash chickpeas using a fork until no whole ones are left
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients in with the chickpeas and mix
  4. Knead for about 5 minutes until quite firm
  5. Let sit for 5 minutes
  6. While you’re waiting tear 6 bits of tinfoil into 4 inch long rectangles
  7. Place golf ball sized pieces of dough onto foil and mould into a sausage shape (about 5 inches long)
  8. Wrap the dough in the foil and seal the edges
  9. Steam for 30 minutes, rotating pieces if necessary so all pieces feel the heat
Ocean Wise and SeaChoice, why we need to support them.

Ocean Wise and SeaChoice, why we need to support them.

I may have weaned myself off meat, but I still eat fish. I know, “boo,” say the real vegetarians. I’m just not there yet but, in an effort to be a bit more environmentally conscious, I try to stick to sustainably caught seafood.

Why is sustainably caught seafood important? What difference does it make really?

comic-button

Remember the Atlantic Cod Moratorium back in the 90’s? I do. What a mess. Scientists were grumbling about the declining fish population, as were the local fishermen, but the government didn’t listen and/or waited too long to take action and the Northern Cod off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador were fished to commercial extinction. The moratorium was only supposed to be for 2 years to allow time for “the spawning biomass to recover” but 23 years have passed and that moratorium has not been lifted.

Over 30,000 people lost their jobs. It was called “the biggest layoff in Canadian History”. There was a lot of yelling and pointing of fingers at other countries. It was a shit show. But the fact of the matter was that the cod were overfished. Technology had gone way beyond the cod trap and long-lining traditions of the past and had moved to “factory freezer trawlers” which could fish non stop for weeks. Even when they knew the cod supplies were dwindling nobody stopped and no quota reductions were enforced until it was too late.

So that’s a little piece of Canadian history with a big impact, but what about now? How do we avoid making the same mistake?

Seafood caught using high volume, high impact trawling and gill net fishing should be avoided. Not only do these methods cause over fishing but they also have a large volume of by-catch (accidentally catching other fish and marine mammals) which includes dolphins, porpoises and turtles.

Trawler
Trawler at work
Trawl Gear depolyed
Trawl Gear deployed

As a consumer it is hard to know what to buy. There are so many different fishing methods – which ones are sustainable?

fishing weaponry
fishing weaponry-which ones are sustainable?

sea choiceHappily there are two organisations designed to empower us to make good seafood choices; SeaChoice and Ocean Wise.

SeaChoice, jointly operated by the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, and Living Oceans Society, targets seafood in supermarkets. If you see the SeaChoice logo on seafood you can be sure that it was caught sustainably. They also have a list of recommendations on their website.

oceanwise_logoOcean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program, created to help businesses and their customers make environmentally friendly seafood choices. On the Ocean Wise website you can see which variety of seafood is recommended and what local restaurants or fishmongers serve Ocean Wise seafood. They even have an app!

Each organisation targets a different area of the seafood industry but both are trying to educate the public about sustainable fishing practices. Why should we care? Because if we educate ourselves then we can make better informed choices about what we eat and who we buy from.

Money talks and we are the consumers. We have the power to change things. We’ve already fished one species to the brink of extinction, let’s not make the same mistake twice.

Sources:
Cod Moratorium in Newfoundland http://www.heritage.nf.ca
The Announcement of the Moratorium (Press Release 1992) https://www.cdli.ca
Scientists say Newfoundland’s cod stocks are coming back. Can we get it right this time? (Globe and Mail June 2015) http://www.theglobeandmail.com
The collapse of the Canadian Newfoundland cod fishery (May 2009) http://www.greenpeace.org