My friend Abby once suggested that I add recipes from my time in Kazakhstan to my blog. “Everyone loves recipes,” she told me.
A popular potluck dish has been on my mind lately, perhaps because the omnipresent eggplant has hit its prime.
The dish, mother-in-law tongue, comes via my Kazakh colleague and friend Gulzhan, the one I refer to as “the best cook” in my memoir, At Home On the Kazakh Steppe. And it’s particularly yummy if you love garlic (as I do).
I ate this dish often in Kazakhstan, but it wasn’t until Gulzhan visited me here in Vermont back in 2008 that I paid attention to how she made it. Here’s what it takes:
- An eggplant or two (depending on how many you want to make, naturally)
- Olive oil
- Tomatoes, thinly sliced
Best of all, it makes a great impression at a potluck buffet.
Directions for Mother-in-law-Tongue
Slice the eggplant lengthwise, leaving on the skin. The thinner the slices, the better. I use a Mandolin (not the one with strings; the one with the sharp blade). Place the eggplant slices on a platter with a lip to hold the liquid.
Sprinkle salt over all. You’ll be rinsing it off before you cook, so you can be liberal. Let the eggplant slices sit with the salt for “a while” in a dish. The salt pulls the liquid from the eggplant slices so when you sauté them (step 5, below) they’ll be crispier.
Recipe alert. Gulzhan never measured. And she rarely had a written recipe.
Her dishes seemed to flow organically. Could that be happening here?
While the eggplant is sitting in the salt, mix mayonnaise and minced garlic to taste. Set it aside for “a bit” so the flavors have time to blend.
Once you see liquid gathered beneath the eggplant, it’s time to rinse the slices well and squeeze dry. I dab them with paper towels too. This rinsing and drying is not a step you want to skip.
Sauté the slices in a small amount of olive oil until brown on both sides.
Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels until cool. (This is my American addition to the recipe.)
When cool, place on a serving platter, spread a thin layer of the mayonnaise-garlic mix on top, add thinly sliced tomato and fold in half (better for finger-food).
When I make this again, I’ll be sure to take a photo of the final product.