Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eggplant Caponata

Italian eggplants (Rosa bianaca) destined for caponata
Beautiful gorgeous Italian eggplant. What is so special about Italian eggplant? It is not bitter so you do not have to salt it prior to using it. Same with Japanese eggplant; no salting is required. I have both Italian and Japanese eggplant plants in my garden. Of course, I do not have any ready for eating. I found some at a farm while I was searching for blackberries for my blackberry Chianti jelly and I couldn't resist. I had to buy them.
If you are using regular eggplant: dice the eggplant, toss them with about a tablespoon of salt, place them in a colander (in the sink), and place a plate on top of them and weigh it down so it presses on the eggplant. After an hour, rinse the eggplant and towel dry it.
This recipe takes awhile, well, at least it takes me awhile to make but it so worth it. The smell of sauteing garlic is incredible and the result is gorgeous. I think that is why there are so many caponata recipes out there. This is a forgiving recipe so please change it and tailor it for your tastes. I am blogging so I have it next summer when I have fresh eggplant again. A blog post is so much better than a slip of paper, which is what the recipe is current written on. 

Sliced eggplant

2 Eggplants, Diced
1/4 Cup of Vegetable Oil (Only if frying the eggplant if you are roasting it you need 2-3 Tbsp)
1 Cup (150 g) of Onions, Diced
8 Cloves of Garlic, Thinly Sliced or Diced
3 Tbsp of Olive Oil
2 1/2 Cups (600 ml) of Pureed Tomatoes
1/4 Cup (60 ml) of Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tbsp of Capers, Drained
2 Tbsp of Fresh Basil, Chopped
1 Tbsp of Fresh Oregano, Chopped
1/2 Tsp of Salt
1/2 Tsp of Crushed Red Pepper (Optional)
1 Tbsp of Sugar

Not as healthy (healthier version below)- heat vegetable oil in a skillet and fry eggplant in batches.
Frying eggplant
Drain on a paper towel and keep warm in a 200F/93C /Gas Mark 1/2 oven (on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper). (Use vegetable oil not olive oil for frying).
Staying warm in the oven
Healthier and easier (but in my opinion not as tasty but still good). Put a piece of foil on a cookie sheet.  Toss diced eggplant with 3 tablespoons of oil and roast in 400F/204C/Gas Mark 6 oven for 25 minutes or until tender. (If you oven roast the eggplant, make the rest of the dish while the eggplant is roasting).

In a large sauce pan or dutch oven over low heat heat onions and garlic in olive oil until they begin to caramelize.
Garlic and onions in olive oil
(Enjoy their gorgeous smell as they caramelize. This takes awhile so pour yourself a glass of Chianti and enjoy while they slowly cook).
Add the pureed tomatoes (I cored about 4 tomatoes and pureed them in a food processor) and eggplant to the onion and garlic and cook for approximately 3 minutes. Next add the balsamic vinegar, capers, basil, oregano, salt, sugar, and crushed red pepper. Cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. At this point you can eat the caponata or refrigerate it for later. It also freezes well.
You can also add toasted pine nuts (2 Tbsp), golden raisins (2 Tbsp), and/ or olives (a handful) (just add them with the balsamic vinegar).
Finished caponata
How to use it?
I LOVE it over pasta. This is not how it is traditionally served. But it is so awesome over pasta. It should be served at room temperature with grilled bread but I will also eat it hot and cold. It is amazing served on crostini and even better on grilled bread.  My husband has been know to eat with with a spoon and with chips and anything else he can find.  Yes, it is that good.
Caponata- it is not a trick of the light-- it actually glistens

The bottom line: Will I make it again? Yes, I love this dish. It is an amazing mixture of sweet, salty, and savory. I hope my daughter will make it for her children someday and talk about her Sicilian heritage and the importance of locally grown produce....

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