What Do Veracruz, Mexico and an Eggplant Recipe Have in . . .


. . . common?


You’d have to wonder, right?

Well, I’m up to my eyeballs in eggplants these days—eggplants and proofreading my novel Palace of the Blue Butterfly to put up on Amazon. It’s going slowly—the novel proofing—because it’s harvest season, and well, there are all these . . .

EGGPLANTS to deal with.

I’ve soaked, salted, grilled, fried, roasted, and ratatouilled them ’til I’m blue in the face. Every time I go into the garden these days Dave hears me howling,” Nooo! Not another one!”

I’ve cooked them Italian style, French style, Turkish style, Indian style and I thought I’d exhausted all possibilities. But, I was wrong.

Folks, I give you Berenjena al la Veracruzana .That’s Eggplant Veracruz Style in Spanish.

It’s funny because I’m just getting to the point in my proofreading where Lily has taken off for Veracruz for reasons which are revealed when you read the novel. I had that wonderful part of Mexico in mind . . . plus eggplants.

Okay, even I have to admit that Veracruz is less wonderful now because of all the Zeta Drug Cartel activity, which of course adds a certain tension to the novel and to Lily’s peregrinations in that locale.

Why reading is so great. All the excitement; none of the life threatening parts.

Veracruz is such an historically rich part of the country. If you follow along on my little blog history of Mexico that I post periodically, you’ll find out why. But meanwhile, I’ll tell you that Veracruz is famous for its coffee, vanilla, food, music and dance. Does one need more?

There’s a wonderful Mexican movie called Danzon, which you might want to rent. It’ll give you a flavor of the city, its soul.

Veracruz’s most famous dish is Huachinango Veracruzana— Red Snapper Veracruz style— the ingredients of which go perfectly with eggplant.

Added benefit to making the recipe with eggplant? Its not only vegetarian, its vegan!

Berenjena a la Veracruzana

from Zarela Martinez

2 large eggplants, cut into 1.2-inch slices, heavily salted and allowed to rest for 30 minutes.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves (3 whole, 2 minced)
1 medium-sized white onion, chopped fine
4 – 5 large ripe tomatoes (about 2 pounds), chopped fine, or one 28-ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes with juice,
coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon capers (about 12 – 15 large or 24 – 30 small ones)
12 small pimiento-stuffed green olives
2 – 3 pickled jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut lengthwise into thin strips
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup parsley leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme
2 sprigs of fresh marjoram or 1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried marjoram
2 sprigs of fresh Mexican oregano or 1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dry white wine
While the eggplant rests, make the sauce. In a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan with a well-fitting lid, heat the olive oil to rippling over medium-high heat. Add the 3 whole garlic cloves and cook, stirring, until deep golden (but not browned) on all sides; remove and discard. Add the 2 minced garlic cloves and the chopped onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes or until slightly concentrated. Add all the remaining ingredients and cook, covered, for another 15 – 20 minutes, until the flavors are richly melded and it is as thick as you like. Taste for salt and add another pinch or two if desired (the capers and olives will contribute some). If using whole fresh herbs, fish them out of the sauce and discard before serving. Rinse the eggplant and dry thoroughly. Heat the olive oil until almost smoking over medium heat in a 12-inch frying pan. Fry the eggplant in batches until golden, about 3 minutes on each side and drain on paper towels. Transfer to a platter wide a little rim and pour the veracruzana sauce over. Alternately, you can place the eggplant on top of the sauce and garnish with parsley leaves.
Number of servings (yield): 4

Now, grab a Corona and lime and just imagine you’re sitting under the fans of the Gran Hotel in Veracruz.

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