Eggplant and Tomato Caponata

caponata

Eggplant is not something I cook with very often, but during a trip to visit my Dad and his lovely girlfriend Lois, it was up to me to come up with something with a large eggplant that was given to them by my Dad's cousin (who has a rather impressive garden). After some discussion and some frowny faces because neither my Dad nor Lois have enjoyed eggplant in the past, I did not want that lovely and lonely eggplant to go to waste. After some brainstorming, I came up with a delicious broiled and breaded version served with my favorite mushroom curry. This went over well with my family.

The process was easy. You simply line a broiler pan with foil, top with a metal rack and brush with oil. Preheat your broiler while preparing the eggplant. Peel the eggplant and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. In a small bowl, beat together a large egg, 1 teaspoon or so of olive oil, 1 garlic clove, crushed sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste, dried herbs such as oregano, rosemary and basil, and a pinch of cayenne and maybe some freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired. Now you just need to brush the eggplant with some more olive oil, dip into the egg mixture, and then transfer to a plate with some bread crumbs or cornmeal and coat both sides. Place the eggplant slices onto the prepared pan and broil, flipping the eggplant after 10 minutes and then continuing to bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown, making sure not to burn the eggplant.

Because I was rather pleased with that simple little side, I wanted to explore eggplant yet again when I got home. So I present you with a caponata — a classic Sicilian cooked salad with eggplant, tomatoes, olive and capers served at room temperature. Very much like a Mediterranean relish or salsa, it's especially suited for serving with toasted flat breads. I will note that this is also a perfect way to take advantage of homegrown tomatoes

Ingredients:
  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • large handful fresh parsley, chopped
Instructions:
  • Place the eggplant cubes in a strainer and sprinkle with the salt. Let stand for 1 hour. Rinse and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, celery and garlic and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  • Now add the tomatoes, jalapeños, cumin, curry powder and cayenne and simmer for another few minutes, stirring often. Next add the vinegar, capers, olives and brown sugar if using to the pan Continue to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the eggplant cubes and stir for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the eggplant to the tomato mixture.
  • Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes and taste for seasoning. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Garnish with parsley and serve with flatbreads or toasted pitas.