I have had an on again and off again relationship with Eggplant (nee Aubergine, for those in the UK). I could consume buckets of it as a kid and then as I got older I fell out of love with it. Maybe it has something to do with my thirteen-year stint as a vegetarian during which I consumed more eggplant and mushroom than just about anything else. I had overloaded, I think.
But now, I’m glad to say, I’m back on the Eggplant bandwagon. Here is a simple recipe for caponata, done my way…
- 1 gloriously big eggplant or two baby ones
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 1 medium-large onion, chopped roughly
- 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons of green capers (in vinegar – but drain the vinegar). You can use olives if you prefer olives to capers (or be wild and do half and half!)
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes with their juices (14-16 oz size)
- 5 tablespoons nice olive oil, plus a bit extra
- Big handful of fresh basil, chopped roughly
- 1 teaspoon of dried chili (or red pepper flakes in the US) (you can use a fresh chili pepper too if you want, but then dump it in with the onion and garlic in step 3 below). You can leave this out if you don’t like spicy food but I might judge you.
Steps to joy:
- Rinse your eggplant(s) and cube them into roughly 1-inch cubes. Don’t bother peeling them because that is a lot of work and the skins are tasty (despite what some heathens would have you think).
- Heat a nice big pot (I use my enameled beauty) over medium heat and add the olive oil.
- Once the oil is glistening but not smoking add in the chopped onions, garlic and eggplant (and the fresh chili if you are using that instead of dry). Sauté until the onions and garlic are translucent and the eggplant is brown and a bit soft (but not mushy). This should take about 15 minutes.
- Dump in the chopped tomatoes and their juices along with the dried chili. Give it a good stir. It should be nearly boiling.
- Dump in the red wine vinegar and the capers. Lower the heat so that everything simmers nicely and then cover.
- Cook, covered, for about 10-15 minutes. Then, taste it and see if it needs salt and pepper. Depending on how salty the capers are you are using, you might not need any at all. The caponata should be done now – everything should be melded together flavor-wise. If the eggplant is still stiff at all cover and cook a bit longer.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Taste again and re-season if it needs it. Drizzle some nice extra virgin olive oil over the top.
To serve, you can either cook some lovely spaghetti and use the caponata as a sauce or just slather it on some bread, bruschetta style. Either way it’s delish. I promise. Here is a photo of the batch I made tonight sitting on top of some fresh bread: