Vini da Arturo, in Venice, makes this incredibly simple, but delicious dish. It’s perfect for summer and it’s gets better the next day. Bring this to the next potluck BBQ.
Venice is dreamy and magical. The history is astounding and the food is breathtakingly delicious. Vini da Arturo, (San Marco 3656, 30173 Venezia VE, Italy) is most famous for their pork chop, which is a wonder. But, you know The Goddess and her love affair with eggplant and all things sour would be a sucker for such a dish as this. Many times you will see sweet and sour eggplant, but it always seems to have raisins. But not at Vini da Arturo. Grapes! Isn’t that just genius? No wonder they are well-known. I use Asian eggplants; they have almost no seeds, a thinner skin and I just like them better. But, you can absolutely use “normal” eggplants. At the restaurant, they use pine nuts, and if you can get good pine nuts, by all means toast them and use them. I rather like toasted walnuts with this, but I did get my greedy little hands onto some nice pine nuts, so this is closer to what you might experience at Vini da Arturo.
This is a relatively simple dish to prepare. Normally, I roast this, but I didn’t want to heat up the kitchen, so I made it on top of the stove. I put everything, but the the grapes and the nuts in a heavy-bottomed pan. Give it a toss; I use my hands for this. Then into a hot oven (or over a medium burner) for a few minutes to get things going. Remove the skillet from the oven, add the grapes and give it a good stir…use a spoon, this time! That eggplant is hot by now! Then back into the oven until the eggplant is just tender and the grapes have expanded, but not burst. That’s why we don’t add them at the beginning. If they do burst, worse things could happen…the dish will still be delicious. I remove the skillet, sprinkle on some additional salt and fresh ground black pepper, and toss. If your taste buds feel like, add some coarsely chopped fresh mint before you toss. Sprinkle with the toasted nuts. You can serve this immediately, but frankly I think it’s much better at warm room temperature. I had it for breakfast the next morning, and the flavors were more interesting. It reheats well, too. And that’s it!
Eggplant with Onions, Wine Vinegar, Grapes and Pine Nuts
- 4 Asian eggplant, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1-2 onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 6-10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup olive oil (use more, if you need to, but this is about what I used)
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar (or more to taste)
- Kosher salt (I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1 cup red seedless grapes (pulled from their stems)
- 1/3 cup toasted walnuts (or pine nuts)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F (400°F for convection). Get out a heavy pan; I use a cast iron skillet. Dump the eggplant, onions and garlic into the pan. Sprinkle with several large pinches of salt. Drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar. Using your hands, toss to combine all the ingredients; smooth into an even layer and place the pan in the oven. Let bake for 6-8 minutes. The eggplant shouldn’t be tender yet, but just beginning to be so. Add the grapes; using a spoon (we don’t want to burn our fingers!), toss to combine. Return the pan to the oven and continue to bake until the eggplant is done and the grapes are slightly swollen. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle on some additional salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: You may use pine nuts or pecans, instead of the walnuts. You may use pomegranate molasses, instead of the vinegar, for a different flavor profile. If you wish, add some chopped, fresh mint to the skillet, just after you remove the pan from the oven, toss to combine and then add the nuts.
Eggplant with Onions, Wine Vinegar, Grapes and Pine Nuts Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2019. All rights reserved.