September 12, 2011

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant is a vegetable that until sometime in the last 5 years, I didn't really appreciate.  Now, I love it.  The first time I cooked it, however, ended tragically.  Eggplant is pretty sponge-like with its ability to soak up oil and moisture, which can lead to devastating results when roasted in an oven... trust me.  I have, however, become more successful with eggplant, and it is becoming a vegetable that I enjoy at home, not just when dining out.

The other night, I made some eggplant caponata.  Caponata can be eaten many ways, I've had it as part of an antipasto alone and with bread, but I decided to make it as a vegetable side-dish to go along with pork milanese and mashed potatoes.  As we discovered with the leftovers, it also makes a delicious pasta dish when tossed with fettuccine!

Since I'm still working on becoming an expert eggplant handler, and because caponata has a unique sweet and sour like flavor, I decided to follow a recipe to make sure I was doing the dish justice.  I found a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe in her cookbook Everyday Italian which was simple, easy to follow and mostly called for ingredients that I had already in my pantry.

Everyday Caponata

Makes 6 side-dish servings

1/4 cup olive oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes with juices
3 tablespoons raisins
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon drained capers*
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

*I did not use capers, due to personal taste.  Instead, I added 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flake to add a little heat.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame.  Add the celery and saute until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggplant and saute until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.

Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the red pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins and oregano.  Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar, sugar, capers, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Season with more salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer the caponata to a bowl, garnish with basil leaves, and serve.

This dish was fantastic.  Savory, but still fresh- I really enjoyed the fact that you could still taste the individual vegetables.  This will definitely become a go-to dish in our house.  It made an excellent side dish, and a really easy, healthy pasta-dish the next night.  I'm looking forward to trying it atop some grilled bread!

I hope that you get the chance to try this recipe and enjoy it as much as we did!

De Laurentiis, Giada. Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes. New York: Clarkson/Potter, 2005. Print.

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