I am in Colorado and Neni is in Greece and while I thought it would be a drag to share recipes over the internet, it turns out not only to be easy but a wonderful marriage of east and west! To wit, she sent me this recipe for “young” beef, what Neni calls which was rather confusing to me until I asked the gals at Homestead beef in Delta, Colorado http://www.homesteadbeef.com/ what she might be referring to. They sold me a gorgeous 2lb hunk of fatty sirloin—slaughtered at 13 months. I made the dish from garden eggplants—I am always on the lookout for new eggplant recipes–and it was utterly rich and aromatic and delicious, glistening in mahogany oil and garnished with bright parsley from the pots on the porch. Neni says she made pasta with the leftovers: she tossed the meat and sauce with cooked penne and garnished the dish grated hard feta (ricotta salata will do). I definitely would have done the same…if there had been any left.
Young Beef with Japanese Eggplant
3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup olive oil
2 lbs beef sirloin, shank or other cut, preferably with lots of connective tissue, cut into 4-5 pieces, making sure that each piece has a bit of fat and connective tissue on it, wiped dry
1 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 lbs Japanese eggplant (or young Italian eggplant)
2 cups fresh tomatoes, crushed (don’t use canned)
½ cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1 heaping teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon sugar
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wide pot until almost smoking. Add the meat (wiped so that it doesn’t splatter) and let it brown nicely without getting crisp over high heat, about ten minutes all together, turning it often and adjusting the flame. Add the onion and let it soften and mellow (another five minutes or so) and add the garlic. Allow the garlic to release its fragrance for about half a minute to a minute. Add the pepper and about 1/3- ½ cup warm water (enough to come halfway up to the meat), let it come to a boil and turn down on low. Let it simmer, covered, over the lowest possible heat, for about three hours, or until you see the connective tissue turn gelatinous. Check for doneness with a skewer—if it goes in and comes out easily the meat is done.
In the meantime, prepare the eggplant. Wash well and cut each eggplant in three or four pieces. Add to a bowl filled with water and about ¼ cup of salt. Put a small plate over the eggplant so that it stays submerged in the water, and let rest for at least half an hour, or for as long as it takes the meat to cook. Remove from the water, squeeze well to remove any moisture, and set aside while you heat the oil in a deep frying pan. (Alternately you can drench the eggplant in oil and put it in a very hot oven to fry). When the oil is hot enough to sizzle when you add a dash of flour, add the eggplant and fry until it is just golden brown all over.
Remove the eggplant from the oil and add immediately to the meat. Add the tomatoes, parsley, marjoram, salt, and sugar. Check and see if the meat needs a bit more olive oil (the meat should be glistening). If it needs more oil just add a bit of what’s in the frying pan. Let it cook for another half an hour or so, over very low heat, until the meat falls apart. The eggplant will be very soft and mellow but will stay together because of its skin. Adjust the seasoning , check to see if there has enough sauce for dunking (if it doesn’t just add about ¼ cup of water and let cook for another fifteen minutes) and remove from the heat. Let it sit for about ten minutes before you serve.
Serve with good, crusty bread and a plate of sliced feta on the side.