The first few times we went to a potluck dinner at the community down the road, we were served a savory treat called zacusca. It was brought out from the pantry in pint jars and reverently placed on the table, next to the precious homemade goat cheese. Clearly, this was something special.
We broke bread, spread goat cheese, and then topped it with zacusca. Wow! I had never tasted anything quite like it. It’s not baba ganoush exactly, not a caponata sauce exactly, but somewhat similar. Apparently it is Romanian in origin, and is a great way to preserve an abundant harvest of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and onion.
My friend Beth and I decided to tackle some zacusca this year. We purchased two large banana boxes full of eggplant, peppers, and onion (which cost less than $13 for over 20 lbs of produce – unbelievable!) from our Amish neighbor, and got some huge paste tomatoes from another neighbor. We followed this recipe on Food.com, but adjusted it according to the amounts of produce we had and changed around some of the directions. I figured it was hard to mess up such a dish.
Please do check out the zacusca recipe on Food.com for full instructions, but the basic gist of zacusca-making is as follows:
- Blacken eggplant over a grill or fire
- Dice, then saute peppers and onions
- (I also made tomato paste, but you could easily purchase it in cans)
- Food process EVERYTHING and then,
- Mix thoroughly, adding salt and pepper and lots of olive oil to taste.
- (We decided to saute the vegetables prior to food processing, so we did not cook it again)
- Pressure can for 45 minutes in sterilized mason jars
I have to admit: this was an enormous job. While the zacusca recipe is not complicated, the steps for preparing each vegetable took time and effort and I was very happy to have two adults (sometimes three) on the job. But the flavor is rich, savory, and intense, perfect for use as a dip with pita, a spread for bread, or a topping for polenta or pasta. I imagine cracking open a precious jar in February and tasting the end-of-summer harvest.