Purple Pixie Eggplants - Sabich, An Israeli Street Food Sandwich
August 14, 2011
Good Morning everyone, I couldn't wait to share with you all these gorgeous purple Pixie eggplants. They are so petite and pretty I am going to go and get some more at Wegman's, but first things first....I already pickled a small batch of them in leftover brine from Red Wine Vinegar Heirloom Green Tomato Pickles, and we love having eggplants simply roasted with olive oil and salt, maybe a touch of parsley as a garnish, now and then. Question is can you share in the comment section ideas, recipes for these beauties? Also, if you know anything about these Pixies I would love to learn. Thank you and excited to hear your suggestions and information.
August 20, 2011
Many thanks for all the wonderful suggestions and comments my friends. You guys were such a large part of this important brainstorming process. Many readers and friends suggested roasted eggplants, some suggested marinating, some Caprese salad among many other incredible suggestions and links to recipes. This process triggered some thoughts and ideas and it all came full circle as the Sabich (Hebrew: סביח). The Sabich ties together the India street foods and snacks series and the simultaneously running Israel series.
Some very familiar Middle Eastern street foods, such as the Falafel and the Schawarma, are wide spread Israeli street foods, but the lesser known to all is the Sabich. The Sabich is very unique to Israel and was brought by the Iraqi Jews when many emigrated in the 1950's to Israel and mostly settled in Ramat Gan just outside Tel Aviv. Traditionally the Iraqi Jews eat on the morning of the Sabbath, on flat Iraqi bread stuffed with fried eggplant slices, sliced browned egg from cooking on low heat overnight, Israeli salad and drizzled with parsley lemon Tahini (sesame paste) sauce and an assortment of other salads and condiments according to personal taste. Continue reading and you will find out what I mean when I say 'according to personal taste'.
sToday, the little Sabich shops, stands and kiosks scattered mainly throughout central parts of Israel, serve the pita pocket with sliced hard boiled egg. Since I didn't want to fry the eggplant, I served it with roasted slices of eggplants instead. I switched to the roasting method years ago anytime a recipe calls for fried eggplants, and honestly I achieve very similar, if not identical, results sans (too much) oil. The name Sabich is said to be derived from the word Sabah which means morning in Arabic. Others claim it was named after Sabich Sasson, the owner of the first Sabich stand near Tel Aviv. Lastly there is the camp that says Sabich is an Israeli acronym for Salat (salad), Beytza (Egg), Yoter (more) and Chatzil (eggplant).
The Iraqi Jews brought with them to Israel not only the Sabich but also the Amba condiment to go with it. Yes, you might be as baffled as I was growing up, and ask what an Indian green mango pickle, the Amba, has to do with Iraqi cuisine?! Since then I grew up and learned a bit about the history of how this came about.
Muslim merchants and sea fareres landed on the Malabar Coast in Southern India as early as the 7th century, trading spices and other gooods with India. The Iraqi merchants travelling through the Gulf Coast and the Indian Ocean first arrived in India during Medieval Ages with the 7th century marking more of the beginning of that period. They brought the Amba to Baghdad and Iraq proper. Now a staple in the Iraqi pantry, the Iraqi Jewish community in turn brought the Amba to Israel. (note: this paragraph ensued an entire discussion with Jonathan on accurate portrayal of history and if Medieval Ages term was used by the Muslim world for that period of time, etc. I tried to do my best with the research)
Just for point of reference: The Iraqi Jews who arrived in India and settled there, known as the Baghdadi Jews, are thought to have arrived later, during the British Raj, British Colonial times in India (1858 and on). Indian Jews in general (as there are five different distinct Indian Jewish communities) trickled into Israel in the 50's but the majority arrived in the 60's with many Indian products now available in Indian spice and other shops in Israel. I wrote a bit about the Jewish community in India in my Malida, Sweetened Poha Breakfast Cereal or Ceremonial Offering?! if you wish to read more.
2 Large eggplants or a 22 oz package of purple Pixie eggplants (I got Pixies at Wegmans)
Olive oil for brushing
Sprinkle of salt
Slice eggplants and layer on a parchment paper layered cookie sheet. Brush with oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt. Roast in a 350F oven until golden at the bottom. Flip and keep roasting until golden on the flipped side. This will take about 45 minutes total. Once flipped after 30 minutes or so it takes less time for the eggplant to golden on the flipped side. This step can be prepped a day or two ahead. Refrigerate if not immediately using roasted eggplants. Some choose to roast at 400F, then the time will be shorter.
I just buy pickled green mango at the Indian grocery store but you can also order it on nutsonline. I found this fantastic Amba recipe on food.com.