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Eggplant al Escabeche from my Argentinian Mother-in-Law

Abuela Approved Badge Eggplant al escabeche

Eggplant al escabeche gets more delicioso with time, as the berengena slices soak in the garlic, crushed red pepper, and dried oregano. This family-famous recipe from her mother-in-law in Argentina was submitted to Familia Kitchen by Melissa Aguilera Rober of Bayside, Queens, New York. The pickled eggplant is a traditional treat eaten with bread and—we are talking about Argentina here, so: of course!—as part of an authentic asado.

This dish is garlicky and addictive, says Melissa, whose own family heritage is Puerto Rican. ”My suegra is famosa for making this berengena.” Big gracias to Mercedes Cristina Centeno, a family-famous homecook who lives in Buenos Aires. This abuela of five—who goes by the name Cristina though she is called Mecha by her family—reports that she first learned this dish more than 30 years ago from her mother. “I make this recipe because everyone in my family likes it. Starting with me: I love these berengenas. I make them to my taste, which is not too vinegary.”

”This is definitely one of my favorite foods my mother makes,” says her son Alex Rober, Melissa’s husband. (Recognize his name? We have Alex to thank for his aunt Marta’s chimichurri recipe—the winner of a Familia Kitchen Recipe Contest—and his insider tips on how to drink his homeland’s traditional liqueur: Fernet.) ”I love to eat this on pizza. My mother makes eggplant al escabeche in huge jars and gives them to all of us in our family. Each jar lasts for six or seven months,” he adds.

Watch how Mercedes Cristina Centeno builds the layers of her much-loved eggplant al escabeche.

Melissa’s mother-in-law sent the recipe with this key piece of advice: ”When you layer in the slices of eggplant, spices and garlic in the jar, be sure to leave enough space at the top to cover it all with oil. And be sure to always keep the lid on tight and the eggplant fully submerged in oil,” Cristina told her. ”Because if not, the eggplant will spoil.”

To make this authentic starter/side, first slice eggplants into wheels about ¼ inch thick—”not too thick, not too thin,” says Cristina. She prefers to slice her eggplants into rounds. Some people cut the vegetable long-ways and stack them top to bottom when marinating, she says, but she thinks cross-sectional slices work better. ”It makes it easy to fit the eggplants into the jar at the end. But,” she is quick to add: ”Slice your eggplants whichever way you like best.”

How often does she make her berengenas? Honestly, not too often, she says, because she makes this recipe in such large quantities, and pickled eggplants keep for a long time. Don’t worry, though. Because they are so loved in her family, Cristina makes sure to have a jar or or two in her fridge. Pretty much always.

Ready to Try Cristina’s Argentinian Eggplant al Escabeche?

Eggplant al Escabeche from my Argentinian Mother-in-Law

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Mercedes Cristina Centeno Cuisine: Argentinian
Servings

10

servings

Ingredients

  • 2 2 eggplants, medium size

  • 2 to 3 Tbps 2 to 3 kosher salt

  • 4 to 6 cloves 4 to 6 garlic, chopped

  • 2 Tbsp 2 crushed red pepper

  • 2 Tbsp 2 oregano, dried

  • 1 tsp 1 whole black peppercorns

  • 2 to 3 cups 2 to 3 corn or sunflower oil

  • 1/2 to 1 cup 1/2 to 1 white vinegar

Directions

  • Prep the Eggplant—Day 1
  • Wash and dry the eggplants well.
  • Slice the eggplants into wheels about ¼ inch thick.
  • Place the slices into a colander in layers, sprinkling each layer with kosher salt.
  • When all the eggplants are salted, cover the colander with a kitchen towel. Let the eggplant sit in the colander on your kitchen counter until the next day, to release their bitter juices. Place the colander inside a larger bowl, so that the juices can drain into it without making a mess.
  • Boil the Eggplant—Day 2
  • In a large pan on the stovetop, add 8 cups of water and ½ to 1 cup of white vinegar or ½ cup of a cafe con leche—coffee with milk.
  • When the water boils, gently add the eggplant slices in batches, so as not to crowd them. Let the eggplant cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, until their skin turns dark brown and the eggplant slices stop floating on top of the water.
  • When ready, gently scoop out the eggplant slices with a large slotted spoon so that they doesn’t break or tear.
  • Place the boiled eggplant slices back into the colander sitting in the larger bowl to drain. When they cool, cover with a kitchen towel and place in the fridge.
  • Let the slices rest in the fridge and scurry until the next day.
  • Marinate the Eggplant—Day 3
  • In a glass container that is wide enough to fit the eggplant rounds and that has a lid, sprinkle about 1 tsp chopped garlic, 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, 1 big pinch dried oregano, and 1 small pinch black peppercorns (about 6).
  • Carefully add about 3 slices eggplant, layered on top of each other.
  • Pour about ¼ cup of oil or to cover the eggplant slices.
  • Repeat. Add the same amounts of chopped garlic, crushed red pepper, oregano and black peppercorns, followed by 3 more slices of eggplant—until the jar is almost filled.
  • When there is just about 1/2 inch of space remaining at the top of the jar, pour oil to fully cover the all eggplant slices.
  • Place in the fridge for 1 to 2 days to let all the flavors soak in—and enjoy! This eggplant dish gets better and more garlicky with time, says Cristina. It will last for months if you keep the eggplant submerged in oil and in your fridge, she says.

Notes

  • Be extra careful when scooping the eggplants from the boiling water. If you tear the eggplant slices, it makes it harder to stack them in the glass jar, advises Mercedes Cristina Centeno.
Slicing the eggplants for eggplant escabeche.
Slice the eggplants: about 1/4-inch thick each.
Sweating the eggplants to release the bitter juices.
Salt and sweat the eggplants for a full day to release their bitter juices.
Salting the eggplant slices
Boil the the eggplant slices for 15 to 20 minutes.
eggplant al escabeche
Scoop out the boiled eggplant slices carefully so as not to tear them.
Eggplant al escabeche jar
Build the marinated-eggplant jar. Add a sprinkling of chopped garlic, dried oregano, crushed red pepper, and peppercorns every 3 eggplant slices. Then add oil to cover. Repeat.
Eggplant escabeche by mecha
Use dried oregano, not fresh, with this recipe.
Eggplant escabeche by mecha
Cover tightly and store in your fridge for a couple days to marinate. This eggplant will last for months. Que delicia.

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