Eggplant Caponata – (recipe and instructions with video tutorial follow) – Eggplant caponata is one of my favorite summertime dishes. It is perfect for picnics, potlucks, and really any get together because it can be made ahead of time and is served at room temperature. Here are a few helpful hints for your eggplant caponata success. First of all, eggplant is in season during the months of July – October (in most areas). That means that this is when they taste the best. Choose an eggplant that is firm to the touch, and has a smooth, shiny skin. Avoid buying eggplants with brown or soft spots. You should also know that eggplant absorbs oil (and other liquids) fairly quickly and easily. That is why, for this recipe, I decided to add it in a little later – I wanted the liquid it was going to absorb to have lots of flavor. Also, I don’t peel my eggplant for this dish. You will find a lot of recipes that instruct you to peel the eggplant, or to cover it in salt and squish it to get the liquid out then rinse it (often done for frying and even then, generally not necessary). Don’t do any of those things when you make this. Just dice the eggplant and add it to the pan. Nothing complicated. I should note though that if you dice your eggplant ahead of time, it will start to oxidize (get brown spots), just like an apple does when you cut it and don’t eat it right away. If you get a few spots from cutting it too early, don’t worry about it, you won’t be able to tell in the finished dish. There are lots of varieties of eggplants and they range in color from white to a beautiful deep purple. In this case, I used a deep purple eggplant known as black beauty. What else, what else? Oh, eggplants and aluminum are not really friends and if you cook an eggplant in an aluminum pan, it will discolor it. It’s OK of course if the pan is lined on the outside with aluminum or if the interior layer of the pan has aluminum, I’m talking about if the part touching the eggplant is aluminum-it will discolor it. Sometimes, this does not matter at all though and there are lots of recipes out there where you wrap the eggplant in aluminum foil and grill or roast it. In other words, it’s not necessarily a big deal anyway, I just thought I’d let you know for future reference. And last but not least, here are a few extra facts that you can share to look super smart at the dinner table. Eggplant is part of the nightshade family (genus Solanum (tomatoes and potatoes are also classified in this genus) and although it is treated like a veggie, it is in fact a fruit – a berry to be exact and it is native to India. Pretty cool huh?
1/2 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 ribs celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 carrot, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup golden raisins
10 green olives, minced
1 Tablespoon capers
1 medium eggplant, medium dice
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon thyme, dried ground
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup pine nuts
basil for garnish
1. In a med pot (mine is 5 qt), heat your olive oil.
2. Add the carrots, celery, and onion, sprinkle with about 1 tsp Kosher salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the raisins, olives, capers, eggplant, and chili flakes. Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp salt and saute for about another 5 minutes.
4. Add the cinnamon, cocoa powder, thyme, sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir.
5. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the eggplant is done.
6. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.
7. Simmer for about 10 minutes – the veggies should be getting soft.
8. Taste it and decide if it needs more salt or pepper.
9. Remove it from the heat and add the pine nuts, allow to cool to room temperature.
10. Spoon over crostini (see note) and garnish with fresh basil chiffonade.
*crostini – crostini (plural for crostino in Italian) are small slices of bread that are usually toasted. I personally start with a nice french or Italian Loaf, slice it 1/2 inch thick or so, brush it lightly with olive oil, sprinkle it with Kosher salt and pepper then bake it at 400°F for around 10 minutes – just keep checking them until they’re toasty on the outside and still soft on the inside.
Please enjoy this how-to video!