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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

For GEORGE . . . UKRAINIAN EGGPLANT SPREAD


George, my brother, in his 20s

The children of homesteaders were pioneers right along with their parents.   Dad’s land was stony and my brothers put in a lot of time picking up rocks in the fields.   Regular farm chores started early in the morning with milking.  Often, the boys had to stay home from school to help; especially at harvest time.  In fact, the school year was often in jeopardy from the number of days missed.

On top of that, friends and relatives sometimes needed a hand.   Uncle Myron cut his hand at a sawmill – the saw blade was over a quarter of an inch and the cut was across the back of two fingers.  A doctor somehow saved those fingers, but Aunt Katie was doing a lot of chores and couldn’t do them all.

Myron and Katie  

George, who was not yet 14, went to stay at Uncle Myron’s and help out during the Christmas holidays.  Aunt Katie’s brother was cutting lumber for the Uncle Myron’s barn.  George would hitch up at 8 am and drive a sleigh to the reserve, pick up lumber, and drive back by 4 pm.  (He had company because Harry Dayday was driving another sleigh of cut wood for himself.)  Then George would help with the chores.  All the lumber for the barn got transported during those holidays.

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George, I know you don’t like desserts, so here’s a savoury spread that’s really good hot or cold:

EGGPLANT SPREAD (Ikra z Baklazhana)

From Savella Stechishin’s Traditional Ukrainian Cookery

1 large eggplant
2 small onions
3 tbsp oil
4 tomatoes
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
1 ½ tsp salt (Savella suggests 2 tsps, so add the other ½ tsp, if you like salt)
½ tsp pepper

1.      In a Dutch oven, cover the eggplant with boiling water and cook for 20 minutes until tender.
2.     Chop the tomatoes. 
3.     Drain and cool the eggplant.
4.     Cut off the stem, peel, and chop finely.
5.     Chop the onions finely.  Sauté them in the oil until softened.
6.     Add the tomatoes and cook, uncovered, until thickened.
7.     Stir in eggplant and cook until fairly thick.
8.     Stir in the lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Refrigerate.
9.     Serve cold.

Savella suggested spreading this on canapés or using a relish with cold meat.  Both work. 

I also served it hot as a side dish.  But, my favourite, was when I served it cold alongside hot perogies.  That was fantastic!
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P.S. Savella says that “Eggplant grows luxuriantly in the southern regions of Ukraine.   This spread, called ‘ikra’ (mock caviar) is a popular appetizer” in Ukraine.