An Italian-Jewish appetizer, this Marinated Eggplant and Zucchini with Persimmon is the perfect light winter dish paired with Italian wines!
This post was sponsored by the Italian Trade Agency as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
I often focus on Ashkenazi recipes on this blog because that is what I grew up with. Those are the recipes I made with my Bubbe and know so well. I could make kugel in my sleep. It would get a little messy, but I could do it.
But one of the things I have loved learning about over the 8 years I have been blogging is lesser known Jewish dishes. Like Italian Jewish recipes. They exist!
Anyone else love wine? I started to grow a special fondness for Italian wines when I studied abroad in Spain and spent two weeks in Italy (right before finals, which we almost missed when Air Italia went on strike, but that’s neither here nor there.) It was at a cozy mozzarella bar in Rome where they served you complimentary fresh mozzarella DOP with your wine instead of snack mix that I enjoyed a dry, cherry-forward Chianti with the softest basil marinated cheese. I’m drooling just thinking about it now.
After Rome, my friend and I went to Florence and paired up with an Australian exchange student staying at our hostel who has rented a car to drive out to Tuscany. This was pre-Google maps and she kept forgetting to drive on the right side of the road all while glancing at the map and driving in circles around the many roundabouts. By the time we got to the quaint Tuscan towns, we were in need of wine stat. (We took the bus back.)
Tuscany is known for some of the best wine in Italy (there are 20 regions!), especially my favorite reds. Sangiovese, Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Carmignano and Morellino di Scansano to name a few. Though Italy has over 3,000 varieties of grapes in all, the most in the world! I was in heaven, you could almost taste the history in the wine, and you can definitely taste the passion and quality. Some of my greatest memories were from that trip, and drinking Italian wine always brings me back.
More recently I have been inspired to try new-to-me Italian wines like Aglianico from the Campania region. This region only represents 3% of Italy’s wine production, but ancient Roman’s admired it as one of the best for vine cultivation.
The region is known for its native vines and classic wines. Aglianico is rustic and earthy and can be heavier than my beloved Chianti, but once it has been aged also has beautiful notes of black cherry, plum and white pepper. Even cured meat and truffle notes can be found in this complex wine and it pairs well with my favorite Texas BBQ.
I initially really wanted to make the classic Italian fried artichokes to pair with my Italian wine, but I could not find fresh artichokes here in Puerto Rico (don’t feel too bad for me, I went to the beach today.) And we are totally channeling Italian life with our own dulce vida. We spend a little more time enjoying a drink al fresco here, appreciating life.
You may think of pasta or pizza when you think of Italian food, but there are some lighter options too.
Per usual, Italian Jews were stuck with food options or ingredients others did not dare to try. Less-than-perfect zucchini or mysterious eggplant got fresh life after they were fried and marinated in vinegar. I added persimmon, a nod to winters in Israel and a bit of freshness and color. The sweet and tart dish with the dry but fruity Chianti all pair together perfectly! I served this as an appetizer with my boyfriend, but it makes a perfect side or even light main. The best part is you can make it ahead of time and enjoy leisurely, living the dolce vita (the sweet life), with your wine in hand.
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced into ¼ inch slices
- 2 medium eggplant, sliced into ¼ inch slices
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons hite or red vinegar (I used red)
- ½ teaspoon whole dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Kosher salt
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 1 Fuyu persimmon, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
- In a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Sprinkle eggplant and zucchini with ¼ teaspoon salt and fry in batches on both sides until browned and tender but not over-cooked. Add in more oil as needed. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, oregano, red chili pepper flakes and garlic together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Arrange the zucchini and eggplant on a plated and brush or spoon with dressing. You may not need all of it.
- Marinate overnight or eat right away garnished with persimmon and mint.
Remember to always drink your wine responsibly!