Fiery Eggplants (Baklazhan Ogonyok)

This eggplant-based dish tastes excellent whether eaten by itself or as a condiment for steak, meatloaf, pork chops, or any kind of meat. This dish  is a typical example of a Russian zakuska (a type of appetizer or an antipasto).   In Russia, this dish is literally called “Little Fire” and is a popular canning recipe. Don’t be alarmed at the word “fiery” in the name of this dish. Traditional Russian cuisine is quite mild, and what may be perceived as hot by the Russian palate does not even compare to the level of hotness of other cuisines, for example Korean or Jamaican. Select small eggplants to use in this recipe, as they are less bitter and contain fewer seeds. I found these cute little baby eggplants at a local veggie store and just could not walk away without buying them. I also used a mixture of hot and mild Hungarian peppers, which are soooo much tastier than the regular bell peppers. To add visual appeal and hotness, I used red (hot) and green (mild) peppers. I also used one special ingredient from Russia: unrefined sunflower oil. If you can’t find it, using regular vegetable oil is perfectly fine. This dish is equally delicious hot or cold.

 

Recipe

Ingredients:

1 lb (0.5 kg) eggplants (choose small eggplants)
1 lb (0.5 kg) sweet peppers (such as bell peppers or Hungarian peppers)
6-8 garlic cloves
2 hot chili peppers (bird’s eye or hot banana, or any other hot pepper you like)
1/8 cup white vinegar
vegetable oil
(optional) 1 tbsp unrefined sunflower oil
salt, to taste

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Instructions:

Cut the eggplants into 0.5 in (1 cm) thick slices. In a bowl, toss the eggplants with 2 tablespoons of salt and let stand for 1 hour. This is done to neutralize the bitterness of the eggplants.

Remove seeds and membranes from bell peppers. Cut into quarters.

Peel garlic and cut each clove into 2-3 pieces.

Remove seeds and membrane from chili peppers (Use gloves when handling chili peppers).

In a food processor, pulse sweet peppers, garlic, and chili peppers until everything is in small pieces.

Add the pepper mixture to a skillet. Add 1 tablespoon or unrefined    sunflower oil or any vegetable oil. Add 1/8 cup of  vinegar and salt (to taste) and heat the mixture, stirring continuously.

Drain juices from the eggplants. Coat a large skillet or a frying pan with oil. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer. Fry until golden. Turn over and fry on the other side.

Add the eggplants to the pepper mixture. Stir and let stand in the fridge overnight – this will allow the flavours to mature. Serve hot or cold.

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