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swirl and savor

Melanzana di Mandranova (Eggplant of Mandranova)

Beth Ribblett

They had me at the appetizer course...our very first dinner in the beautiful dinning room at the Mandranova Resort began with a heavenly, silky eggplant dish that received instant raves from the entire group. We knew we were in trouble. We would be staying there for the next three nights and if the rest of the food was anything like the appetizer, we'd have a hard time fitting into the cars when we left! Three dinners, 12 total courses, and I'm not even counting breakfast, and each dish just got better and better and better. But since this appetizer was our first taste of Mandranova, it became the symbol of the freshness and quality, simplicity and elegance, of our dinning experiences at the estate.

An olive estate, I can't really call it a farm, owned by Guiseppe and Silvia Di Vincenzo, Mandranova is a beautiful oasis in the midst of an agricultural area of southern Sicily. We were there during the press and got to see the process first hand. I'll do a post on our whole experience there in the upcoming weeks, but here is a previous post I did on there olive oils with a video of how to taste olive oil featuring Silvia Di Vincenzo: Mandranova, Sicilian Olive Oil from the Gods.

This recipe makes four generous appetizer portions. If you wanted smaller portions you could divide into 6.

4 medium eggplants, whole
1 clove of garlic finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh oregano finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil (the better the quality, the better it will taste!)
olive oil, chopped tomatoes and fresh basil for garnish

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast the whole eggplants for 30 - 45 minutes. Time will depend on the type and size of eggplant. After 30 minutes, check periodically by inserting a skewer into the widest part of the eggplant. It should be very soft and come out clean.
-Remove the eggplants and allow them to cool. Peel, finely chop, place in a colander and sprinkle with a little salt to help draw out any remaining bitterness. Let drain for 30 minutes. Rinse, press out the water with a spatula and pat dry.
-Place eggplant, garlic, oregano and olive oil in a bowl and mix well. Add salt to taste.
-Divide the mixture between 4-6 ramekins, depending on desired portions. Place ramekins in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours (max 24hours) to allow the flavors to blend.
-When ready to serve, remove ramekins and run a knife around the outer edge of the eggplant to loosen it from the bowl. Turn the ramekin upside down onto a plate, shake it a little and tap the top with a knife until it comes cleanly unto the plate.
-Garnish with chopped tomatoes seasoned with salt and pepper and basil. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Try this with a crisp Sicilian white wine like my wine of the moment, the Ajello Grillo-Catarratto available at Swirl!