Aubergine caviar (баклаженная икра/baklazhennaya ikra)

My mom makes the best ikra. She’s known for it in our small family. She’s made it for every holiday for as long as I can remember. The mere thought of it makes me homesick. Before I picked up this cooking hobby (which, I might add, was quite recently), she’d tried to teach me how to make it, but I was more interested in eating it than creating my own version of it, so her attempts were largely unsuccessful.

I decided I would finally experiment with my mom’s recipe for the Easter gathering on Sunday. Since it needs to sit in the refrigerator for a few days to let the flavors meld, I decided to make it tonight.

Ingredients

1 2-lb eggplant (or 2 1-lb eggplants)
1 medium onion (1 cup), finely chopped
2 small cloves of garlic (1 teaspoon), minced
1 small can of chopped black olives
3 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup tomato paste or puree
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper

Directions

Bake the eggplant in a 400 degree oven for about an hour until the skin is charred and wrinkled (I cut the end off before baking, place it on a foil lined baking sheet, and spread a little oil on the foil to avoid sticking).

Meanwhile, chop the onion, garlic, and saute the onions in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until they are soft and yellow, not browned.  Stir often.

Add garlic and keep cooking until soft. Remove pan from the heat.

When the eggplant’s skin is charred, remove from the oven and let it cool so you can handle it. Then, peel the skin and it should come off easily. Be sure to avoid taking the meat of the eggplant with the skin. There will be a lot of liquid, so keep it on the pan while you do it.

Chop the eggplant into fine pieces and add to the frying pan with the rest. Then add the tomato paste.

Replace the pan back on the burner and thoroughly combine ingredients by stirring while they cook. The pieces of the eggplant will get mushy and that’s a good thing.  Cook until the mixture is very thick, on a low heat, for about 10 minutes and stir often so it doesn’t burn. Add the olives and a little salt and pepper; stir and remove from heat.

Add the lemon juice once the mixture has cooled for a minute or two.

Refrigerate at least a day before adding additional salt and pepper (the taste will be different once the flavors have had a chance to mingle). Ikra is best after marinating in the refrigerator for a few days, and can keep for up to a week.