Caponata

Caponata

I have a confession to make.  I am not a lover of Aubergine.  As scandalous as this sounds, I suppose it isn’t that uncommon.  Aubergine, aka eggplant, is not one of the more common ingredients found on most dinner plates around the country.  It doesn’t have the greatest flavor or texture when cooked on its own.  And at times, it can be downright bitter.  However, I can promise you, if you like bold flavors, put aside your distrust of eggplant recipes and make this version of caponata.  Even I, a skeptic of eggplant, became a true believer after eating it.

{Recipe after the jump.}

Caponata is a loose designation for a Sicilian sweet and sour stewed vegetable dish.  Sometimes, a name for a dish tells you exactly what is in it.  Other times, a dishes name only tells you the style of cooking.  Caponata calls somewhere in between.  I’ve heard it described as the Italian answer to ratatouille, and there is some truth to that.  Much like the classic french dish, caponata almost always contains eggplant and some variation of tomato, but this dish is typically made with the addition of vinegar and sugar as well for a sweet and sour flavor.  However, these ingredients are typically only a base, and the dish can be as simple or as complex as a cook would like.

Caponata can contain a myriad of other vegetables, from celery, onions, and carrots, to peppers, olives, capers, or potatoes.  They can be enhanced with exotic spices, or made more floral with herbs.  And of course there are versions out there that add seafood to the mix.  How a caponata is made is really dependent on the cooks taste and how much effort they want to put into the dish.

My version leans more toward complex, but I think it is worth it.  It uses a lot of ingredients from our CSA shares, and enhances it with big, bold, complex flavors.  In the past, I haven’t given eggplant its due.  This dish creates a wonderful showcase for the vegetable as well as many other vegetables from the farm. — Adam Gregory

Caponata

Servings: 4

Cooking time: around 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 3 CSA Japanese Eggplant (or equivalent volume of other Eggplants)
  • 3 medium CSA Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 1 large Sweet Bell Pepper (typically red, yellow, or orange)
  • 2 cloves CSA Garlic
  • 2 stalks Celery
  • 1 Sweet Onion (red or yellow)
  • 3 tbs Capers
  • 3 tbs Pine Nuts
  • 2 tbs Dried Cranberries (or Raisins)
  • 3 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Tbs Sugar
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp Chile Paste
  • 2 tsp minced fresh CSA Mint
  • 2 tbs + 2 tbs Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Directions:

1)    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In the meantime, wash your vegetables.

2)    Peel and dice your eggplants.  Toss with 2 tbs olive oil and a bit of salt.  Spread on a baking dish and roast in the oven for around 30 minutes or until soft.

3)    Using a pair of tongs and a gas burner over medium high heat, blister the skin of your bell pepper.  This may sound odd, but it will only take a minute or two to char the skin of you pepper this way.  When one side of the pepper blackens nearly completely from the intense heat, turn the pepper one quarter of a turn and char the remaining sides until complete.  Another way to char your pepper would be to place the pepper on a sheet pan and place it under a broiler.  Using the same method, watch the pepper until one side is almost completely blacked.  Then flip until complete.  Place the pepper in a sealed container or a zip bag to steam.  This will take around 15 minutes.  Once the pepper has steamed, scrape the blacked skin off with your fingers.  Try not to run it under water to remove the skin as this also washes away oils that give the pepper some of its flavor.  Once the skin is removed, remove the seeds and dice the pepper.  Set aside.

3)    Cut the celery and onion into a small dice.  Reserve.

4)    Peel and mince two cloves of garlic.  Reserve.

5)    Dice three tomatoes.  Reserve.

6)    Mince 2 tsp of fresh mint (around 12-14 mint leaves).  Reserve.

7)    Measure the cocoa powder, cinnamon, and sugar into a small bowl.  Reserve.

8)    Coarsely chop the dried cranberries.  Substitute an equal amount of raisins for the cranberries if you wish, but I prefer the dried cranberries for their sweet tart flavor.  Reserve

9)    To bring it all together, in a medium pot over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic, pine nuts, cranberries and celery in 2 tbs olive oil with salt and pepper for around 5 minutes or until soft.  Do not brown the vegetables.

10)    Add the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and cook for two minutes.

11)    Add the diced roasted pepper, capers, and tomatoes, along with the chile paste, and cook for around 5 minutes.

12)    Add the balsamic vinegar, bring to a simmer, and cook over medium low heat for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the stew doesn’t burn.

13)    Check the seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper if desired.  Add in the chopped mint, remove from the heat, and serve.

Enjoy!

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One response

  1. Looks yum. I’m not a fan of aubergine either. I’ve never heard of this dish so thanks so much for sharing. I only like aubergine in this sort of thing, or deep friend in bread crumbs or batter.

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