I still marvel at how some ingredients that I haven’t stumbled on for years, pop up before my eyes in the least assuming places.
On a memorable trip to Little India in Singapore two weeks ago, those cutest baby eggplants were jiggling in their crate, calling my name. They were simply irresistible.
When my sight fell on them, I promptly envisioned how to put them in good use. And I whispered , “Makdous can’t be a better fit.”
The Makdous appetizer is almost a staple on most Levantine tables. Yet there are serveral variations of makdous that exisit among the levant countries such Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, or Palestine.
Yet, the core remains more or less the same– poached baby eggplants stuffed with a mix of toasted crunchy walnuts, sweet red bell pepper, fiery red pepper, crushed pungent garlic, and a generous drizzle of good quality olive oil.
Olio Di Porrona, a fine Italian bottle of extra virgin olive oil, offered to me by a friend, was the second strongest catalyst to make this recipe happen. The bottle of cold-pressed olive oil was getting inpatient on my kitchen counter begging to be used. Its velvety, rich texture, fruity aroma, and complex taste manage to upgrade any dish status from mundane to exceptional.
I am confident that those cute baby eggplants were flattered by just being drenched in this fancy olive oil.
Makdous is easy to make and it could become even easier if you break the tasks over two days.
Day #1: Prepare the stuffing, poach the eggplants, sprinkle them with salt, and let them sit overnight in the fridge to shed their moisture on paper towel.
Day #2: Stuff the eggplants, cover with quality extra virgin oil, and keep it in the fridge.
In this personalized recipe, I strayed an inch away from the original, and added a favorite ingredient of mine which is pomegranate, to enliven the taste and balance both the heat and saltiness. The other thing I did it differently was to use raw pepper instead of roasted ones in the original recipe.
In case you have leftover of the stuffing, don’t hesitate to serve it as a dip next to some pita chips or crackers. The stuffing in its own right is a stellar dip when I serve it in cocktails chez moi.
Makdous is an edible ornament to a worldly appetizer table.
Makdous (Eggplants Pickles)
- 1 kg of mini baby eggplants
- 1/2 cup of walnut, lightly toasted and finely chopped
- 1 capsicum, roasted and finely chopped
- 1 chili pepper
- 1/4 cup of parsley, finely chopped
- salt and pepper, as needed
- extra virgin olive oil, as needed
- Boil the Eggplants: Bring 2 liters of water to boil. Blanch the eggplants without removing the green tops for 5- 10 minutes or until they are tender. Turn off the heat and let the eggplants rest in the water for 10-15 minutes. Then drain the water and let the eggplants dry over a clean kitchen towel until all excess water is discarded.
- Prepare the eggplants: Remove the green tops of the eggplants. Make a slit (half -way through) in each eggplant and rub it with little sea salt. Arrange the eggplants over a flat dish without touching one another. Put a heavy dish on top of them to add more pressure, add a heavy object like a book. Let the eggplants sit overnight in the fridge. The salt should draw the moisture out. The second day, rinse lightly the eggplants and dry them well with a paper towel before proceeding with the recipe.
- Prepare the stuffing. In a bowl, mix together, the toasted walnuts, the chopped parsley, crushed garlic, the capsicum, and red chili pepper. Season with some ground black pepper.
- Stuff the eggplants. Fill each slit with the stuffing. Lay the eggplants in a sterlized glass jar, cover it completely with the olive oil, sprinkle some salt on top before you seal the jar tightly with the lid.
- Store: Keep the jar in a cool dark place such as kitchen cupboard. The Makdouss should be ready to 10- 20 days. it depends on the storage temperature.
- Serve: Keep it in the fridge one day before you serve. Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds as a garnish and serve it cold next to wedges of toasted pita bread.
- This version of makdous is a variation/shortcut of the original one that requires roasted red pepper and calls for preserving the stuffed eggplants in oil for two weeks at room temperature.