On a recent trip to Sicily, I noticed many restaurants had pickled eggplant that was cut into thin strips, shaped like French fries. However, this isn’t how I grew up with the dish at all. My father and grandmother, and come to think of it, aunts and neighbors, used to make it like this:
Take a sterilized mason jar and fill it 1/3 way with EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), 4 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
Meanwhile, peel two large eggplants and slice them 1/4 thick (not too thin or they will break apart).
Take a colandar and line it with a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle salt on the layer and then add another layer of eggplant slices. Repeat the salting and layering until the colander is full. Put a plate on top and a heavy can and leave the eggplant for an hour or more so the bitterness drains out of it. You should either put this in the sink or put a large plate under it.
When you come back to it, the colander will have a brown pool of liquid under it. Discard this.
Take a high-sided frying pan and add two-three inches of white or cider vinegar. Bring to a boil and add the eggplant slices and let boil for 5-10 seconds. Pull out with tongs and add directly to the mason jar with the EVOO mixture. Keep pressing the eggplant down to compress as you add more so they are tightly packed in the jar.
If you need to add more oil to keep the eggplant submerged, make sure to do so. You don’t need to add more garlic or red pepper. When you have filled the jar with eggplant, make sure there is a layer of EVOO at the top. This preserves the eggplant. Seal the jar by closing tight and let it sit until it cools or overnight. Store in a cool, dark place or the fridge. Eat within a week with a hunk of delicious semolina bread or even make it into a sandwich! Here’s a video of my father, Sal, making one of his signature dishes: