i do a lot of pseudo-single-lady cooking. forget rachel ray, if the somm is out of town, dinner needs to take about 15 minutes to get from the fridge into my mouth. this tends to limit the repertoire to, well, zucchini hash and a fried egg if i can muster the energy to chop something. or olives and a very large glass of wine if it’s been one of those days.
yeah. classy. i’ll be sure to get that recipe up here one of these days.
anyway, when i’m a pseudo-single-lady who has her $%*! together and isn’t too hangry at the world to cope with cooking, i’ll make a big pot of something that’ll last all week to use in various forms for lunch and dinner. like a big pork tenderloin or a pot of braised chicken that’ll go in salads or on pasta. mmm.
this is one of those type of recipes.
eggplant caponata is kind of like the italian version of ratatouille. but it has more eggplant than tomato. and you chop the veggies up into smaller pieces.
and unlike tomatoey ratatouille, which i melt into almost a stew, the eggplant in caponata tends to hold its shape and texture even as you saute and simmer it. and it ends up more as a dip. or like salsa? do you know what i’m getting at here?
the type of caponata i like to make is pretty tangy. lots of capers and olives and some red wine or sherry vinegar to zing it up.
the secret ingredient? pine nuts.
no one would call a pine nut crunchy. but against the silky smooth texture of the eggplant, tomato, and red pepper, they give the caponata a much needed bite. and a nice toasty, nutty layer of flavor to the dish.
don’t be like me and totally forget about your pine nuts and let them get slightly too toasty on one side while staying oddly nakedly blonde on the other.
just keepin’ it real, folks.
so, i’ve made caponata for family dinners when the somm’s home. i made a huge batch, and it just got better all week. the yogi came over and we spread it on french bread, crumbled some feta on top, broiled it and had it in our faces in under 15 minutes, FTW.
look, here i’ve served it with pork.
shocking, i know. i pretty much have served everything i’ve made this summer with pork. thank god it’s dropping into winter weather this weekend so i can give my old friends the short ribs some love.
Adapted from the New York Times
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 red bell peppers, diced
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, chopped into 1/2ish cubes or close enough (see note)
- 2 medium to large ripe tomatoes, diced (and peeled if you’re feeling fancy), or half a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 3 heaped tablespoons capers, drained
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
- 1 good splash of red wine
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
Heat your oil in your skillet, add the onions and saute for a few minutes. You probably don’t want to let them brown because they’ve got some more cooking to do, but I can never remember to stir and I’m usually chopping the eggplant or garlic and forget, and it works out ok.
Add the garlic and red bell pepper and saute for another few minutes to get the pepper softening. Then add your eggplant and cook until it gets a little brown – maybe 10 minutes or so.
Add your tomatoes, olives, and capers, cook for a few minutes then add the tomato paste and liquids. Cook until the liquid is just gone and the sauce holds together. Taste it and see if the balance of tart and savory is right for you or if it needs more vinegar or maybe even a pinch of sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can either add the pine nuts now, or you can reserve and garnish as needed. This helps keep them from going too soft in my opinion.
Caponata is best served warm or room temperature, but it’s pretty darn good on crackers straight out of the fridge too.
A note about eggplants: Many people find eggplant to be bitter if you don’t salt it first. I usually buy the lighter purple eggplants. Or the funky streaky looking ones. In part, if I’m being honest, cause they’re kind of prettier. But I also think they’re sweeter and less bitter than the darker ones. And I’m lazy and that’s my excuse to not salt my eggplant. Feel free to salt yours if you have the patience or desire. Also, the New York Times has you roast your eggplant. I like the firm bite of a non-roasted eggplant, and didn’t really want to add the prep time, but I’m sure it’s lovely either way. Aren’t you so glad you came for all this (not) helpful (completely subjective, not tested) advice!