This is the latest entry in my Regions of Italy project, based on the book La Cucina—The Regional Cooking of Italy by Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine) as my guide. Today we are still in Calabria, which, as I said in my last entry, makes up the “instep” and toe of the boot of Italy.
The last Calabrian recipe featured eggplant as its main ingredient, so I had wanted to avoid additional eggplant recipes. But the name of this one intrigued me: Purgatory Sandwich. The book doesn’t explain why this is called Purgatory Sandwich, and I couldn’t find any information on it (I will say that my research was minimal). My theory is that whoever named this decided that if they had to stop in Purgatory on their way to Heaven and needed a snack, this would be it.
Anyway, let’s get to the recipe. This one had a couple of ingredients that were vague. Here are the items (as they are called for in the book) that I had issues with (the text in red are my comments):
2 eggplants (What size? Small? Medium? Or what weight? One pound? Two pounds?), cut into sections (What does that mean?) and soaked in salted water about 30 minutes (this should have been put at the top of the list and the first step in the instructions). I started with two small Italian eggplants and cubed them, but found that to be too much. So, in the end, I recommend 1 medium eggplant.
4 peppers, coarsely chopped (What kind of peppers? Bell? Italian? What color? I went with 1 large red and 2 smallish green bell peppers)
As for the tomatoes, I felt that it could have used one more. Also, the recipes calls for 4 young potatoes, quartered–I think they are referring to new potatoes here.
This is a very rustic, quintessential Italian recipe. The fact that it contains eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes just makes it scream Mediterranean.
Purgatorio alla Calabrese
Calabrian “Purgatory” Vegetable Sandwiches
Recipe adapted from La Cucina—The Regional Cooking of Italy by Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine). Published by Rizzoli Publications.Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 medium eggplant, cubed
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus extra
4 large plum tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons torn basil leaves
4 new potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 medium bell peppers, mixed colors, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 loaf crusty country or Italian bread
Place the eggplant in a large bowl with a tablespoon of salt. Fill the bowl with water and swish the eggplant around. Let this sit for about 30 minutes, then drain.Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Cut an “X” into the bottom of the tomatoes, then put them in the boiling water for about 30 to 45 seconds. When you see the skin splitting, take them out with a slotted spoon. Remove the skin and chop the tomatoes (remove the seeds first, if you like).Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium sauce pot. Add the tomatoes and basil and cook for 15 minutes, partially covered. Stir occasionally.In a separate, wide pan, heat the remaining oil. Add the peppers, potatoes, drained eggplant, 1 tablespoon salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover the pot, then cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick and some of the liquid has evaporated. Taste it for seasoning; adjust if needed.Transfer the vegetables to the tomato sauce and stir. Cook a few minutes to evaporate some of the liquid.Cut the bread into 4 pieces and slice them open. Toast them, if you desire. Fill them with the purgatorio and serve.