Vilma was the sister of our host mother during Peace Corps training in Costa Rica. Her partner was a tall Italian with as fiery a temper as Vilma’s; they argued a lot, and Vilma regularly came to stay with her sister when she and her partner weren’t on speaking terms.
While at her sister’s, Vilma would cook, and Ian and I loved her for it. Our host mother’s cooking was often only barely edible. She believed in cooking vegetables well, and in saving time by boiling several days of vegetables at one time, and just keeping them in the pot on the stove. They got mushier and mushier every day, until it was all we could do to choke them down.
Vilma must have learned some culinary skills from her partner, because she made wonderful Italian food. One of her specialties was marinated eggplant. She brought a jar of it with her almost every time she came, and while it lasted we were in heaven.
We never thought to get the recipe from her, so we spent years afterwards trying to recreate that eggplant. Eventually we managed, and now Vilma’s marinated eggplant is a summer staple in our kitchen. It’s simple to make, and tastes great on bread or crackers.
2 small to medium eggplants
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Peel eggplants and slice very thin (1-2 mm). Steam until the slices are tender and limp (but not falling apart completely). Whisk all the other ingredients together in a small bowl, and toss them gently with the hot steamed eggplant. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving (the longer the better, as the eggplant will soak up more marinade).