I love to discover old food ways that preserve food that would be wasted. It is even better to learn that young farmers are bringing them back. This happened about a month ago when I first learned about Verjus. This is the French word, but the same product is used even more extensively in other countries like Syria. It is basically the product of squeezing the unripe grapes when harvesting grapes for wine. This practice used to be very common but, now, most of these grapes would simply be left to rot.
The benefit of Verjus is that it can be used in recipes in place of wine vinegars, but it has a more subtle less sour taste that allows the other ingredients to really show through. I ordered a bottle on Amazon.com and tried it in lots of vinaigrettes and other recipes, but I really hit the target when I bought beautiful Japanese eggplants at the farmer’s market and make Chez Panisse Eggplant Caviar. Trust me, this is a simple way to really impress your family or guests. The key is to use really great fresh ingredients and let them shine!
Eggplant Caviar on Toasted Bread
2 Japanese eggplant which was easier to chop (or one large globe eggplant)
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper to taste
Really good olive oil (I use Oliva Bella)
2 finely chopped shallots
White Balsamic Vinegar
1 minced clove garlic
¼ c. chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel eggplant and cut in slices or chunks. Place on baking dish with tomatoes and toss with oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle a couple T. water over it all, cover with foil and bake 30-40 minutes until vegetables are soft.
While the vegetables are baking, soak the shallots and garlic in half white Balsamic vinegar and half Verjus. Mash the vegetables, drain the shallots and garlic and add. Cool and add more oil if needed.
When ready to serve, add parsley and serve at room temperature on bagette toasted with a little olive oil.
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