Recently I was watching one of the most popular Soviet comedies of all time Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future for the millionth time, recalling how almost every phrase in that movie was enshrined in the pop culture. In the movie a home-grown scientist sends a regular Soviet bureaucrat to the past where he just happens to look like Ivan The Terrible, who in turn travels back to the 1973 Moscow. In one of the scenes the fake Tsar is having a feast and the dishes are being announced as they arrive: “Black Caviar” (huge bowl), “Red Caviar” (huge bowl), “And from overseas, Eggplant Caviar” (a small drop of supposed delicacy).
This is a tongue-in-check reference to the Soviet food supply system where the real caviar was hard to find and was resold on the black market while so called “eggplant caviar” and “zucchini caviar” where sometimes the only items on the mostly empty shelves and were frowned upon by the Soviet people. That’s why I don’t recommend most Russian comedies to an unprepared American viewers they need to be thoroughly explained.
Needless to say that I didn’t miss these not-so-good vegetable concoctions, but when I read this recipe it sounded good enough to try.
For this recipe you will need about 3-4 lbs of zucchini, 3 medium onions, 2 large red peppers,6-8 tomatoes, 4 oz of tomato paste, 1 pepperoncino (this lady lives in Italy,I used some pepper I grabbed in the Mexican aisle),salt, pepper and olive oil.
Cut zucchini into small cubes, put in a separate dish and sprinkle with salt. Cube peppers and onions. Heat up some olive oil in a skillet, add chopped pepperoncino (or whatever you are using) and red peppers and saute on both sides. Remove to another dish, I used my enameled cast iron pot. Add more oil to the skillet and saute the onions until translucent; when done, move them to the pot. Squeeze the liquid from zucchini and saute in the skillet, add to the pot. Cube the tomatoes (I removed the seeds), saute them in the olive oil adding the tomato paste. Combine with the rest of the vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook on a medium heat for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
It’s probably a good thing that this zucchini caviar doesn’t taste like the stuff I remember from my childhood. Sometimes the memory is good enough to satisfy the food nostalgia without having to subject the tastebuds to the horrible taste of the past.