Summer stews are really a big thing in Italy and around Europe. They come under many names. For example, Caponata in Sicily, Giambotta or Cianfotta in southern Italy, and of course, Ratatouille in France.
The Tuscan Stew called Gurguglione di Elba utilizes similar ingredients that take full advantage of the summer harvest; eggplants, tomatoes, green bell peppers, mint, basil, summer onions, and garlic. We can add this to our ever-growing list of yummy eggplant dishes. The chunky, hearty nature of this recipe makes it great as a side dish, on bruschetta, or even over pasta.
The islands of Italy
How many islands does Italy have? I was shocked to learn that the peninsula of Italy is home to over 400 islands, according to Wikipedia. The largest are Sicily and Sardinia with Elba coming in third.
The island of Elba, part of the Tuscan Archipelago, has a long and interesting history. If you are like me and love to learn history from historical novels, read or re-read The Count of Monte Cristo. The story begins when Napoleon left Elba, his island of exile before returning to power.
If you are a vexillologist, one who studies flags, you might find the flag of Elba interesting. The white background has a red diagonal stripe emblazoned with three golden bees, perhaps a symbolic gesture from Napoleon.
Elba’s very own red wine, Aleatico DOCG became a favorite of Lorenzo De’ Medici. Famous dishes from Elba include the boozy cake, Schiaccia Briaca, the Cerimito, an anise-seed flavored cookie, and this recipe for Gurguglione, Tuscan Summer Stew.
Enough with the history, let’s eat!
Gurguglione di Elba
- 1 large globe eggplant (or 3 small) cubed 1/2 inch
- 1 tbsp. salt + more to taste
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil + more for garnish
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small yellow or red onion, chopped
- 3 green or yellow bell peppers
- 2 zucchini, sliced
- 5 medium tomatoes, diced
- 8 -10 basil leaves, torn
- Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch dice. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. salt and mix with your hands. Put the salted eggplant cubes in a colander over a dish to catch the liquid. Set aside for 30 minutes. This step is not required, but I find that salting and draining the eggplant before cooking gives it a smooth flavor. Prep the eggplant first, then cut and prep the other veggies.
Cook the Stew
- Heat olive oil in large pot and add garlic and onion. Brown for 1-2 minutes on medium until fragrant.
- Add eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and salt. Stir and then simmer for 3 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water as needed if the stew begins to stick or get too dry.
- Garnish with torn basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil. Serve as a side dish, on bruschetta, or over pasta.