Thursday, November 21, 2013

A gift of eggplant

My friend Michelle came to lunch last weekend with a shopping bag full of produce. Every one of us went home with eggplant. It's one of the advantages of having friends who garden, you get the overflow. But now I had a problem. What do you do with eggplant?

Eggplant is not a vegetable I dislike, but it's not a vegetable I like either. It's just sort of there. I've had it in some interesting Middle Eastern food, and some horrible eggplant parmigiana (a waste of a perfectly good marinara sauce), but I've never actually cooked it. On the whole, I like vegetables with crunch. Eggplant, even raw, is not a vegetable with crunch.

But now I had two eggplants sitting on my counter, waiting for me to do something with them. So I did what any modern cook would do. I googled it.

After wading through eggplant parmigiana, baba ganoush, eggplant gratin, fried eggplant, and stewed eggplant, I stumbled on Caponata.

Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant stew/side dish/relish type thing. I chose the recipe because I liked all the ingredients, and I had most of them at home already. Plus, it cooks fairly quickly; most of the work is chopping up the ingredients. 

Traditionally, caponata is served at room temperature, but it smelled so good I couldn't wait. I was blown away. It's sweet and sour and salty all at the same time, and the nuts and celery add some texture. I'm told it's even better when it's had a day to sit and let the flavors blend, so I'm expecting a taste sensation tonight. I think with some cheese on the side, crusty bread, and maybe a beer this works as dinner. Really, it's great. 


via Sauveur Magazine


  • It says three cups of oil. I'm afraid of frying so I reduced it to just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and sautéed  the eggplant until brown. If you decide to fry, remember the oil has to be really hot, or the eggplant will absorb the oil like a sponge. 
  • The chocolate looks a little weird, but it actually works to round out the other flavors.
  • Chop everything before you start.  You want all the ingredients ready to go, there's not a lot of time once you start cooking. 


3 cups olive oil
2 lbs. eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. tomato paste, thinned with ¼ cup water
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
6 oz. green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. finely grated unsweetened chocolate
½ cup finely shredded basil
2 tbsp. pine nuts


Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add eggplant and fry, tossing occasionally, until browned, 3–4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a large bowl; set aside. Pour off all but ¼ cup oil, and reserve for another use. 

Return skillet to heat, add onions and celery, and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, 10 minutes. 

Reduce heat to medium, and add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 1–2 minutes. 

Add crushed tomatoes and continue cooking for 10 minutes. 

Stir in olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, sugar, and chocolate, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. 

Transfer to bowl with eggplant, along with basil and pine nuts, and mix together. Season with salt and pepper, and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Texas Renaissance Festival: 2013

It's that time of year again.

I went to the Texas Renaissance Festival this weekend with some friends. It was the first time I've ever dressed for it (basic serving wench costume - and no, there are no pictures) and I don't think I'll bother next time, or at least go for an outfit I don't have to be laced into. It wasn't especially tight, but it was hot, and the corset made bending difficult. Not worth the fuss. Besides I'm not as entertaining as the other people attending, and I don't see the point in competing. They win, hands down - see the pictures for proof.

The theme for this weekend was Barbarian Invasion, so there were a lot of pelts, leather armor, furry boots and horned helmets. 
inspecting the troops
Fear me, puny mortal! 
The ladies can do barbarian chic too

But it wasn't all macho Conan-wannabes.

Isn't he a gentlemanly looking fox?
And there are all the performers:

Sound and Fury - bad puns galore

fire juggling - I never caught a shot with the fire, unfortunately
And the animal rides (for big and little people):
I'm riding a camel!

on a hay break
 Intriguing tattoos:
I thought it was flowers, but it seems to be dancing mutant fish?
Home-made costumes:
Watch out! - It's Bud Light Man!
The kids are the best:

But by the end I was tired and feeling like this guy:

Hope your weekend was fun. Until later.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Leibster Award, Part Two

I didn't finish all the requirements yesterday, so here we go.

Eleven facts about me
  1. I don't much care for chocolate. It's okay, but I'd rather have a good lemon cake.
  2. I am very sensitive to sounds. I regularly wake up in the middle of the night because I've heard something.
  3. I like weather, even bad weather. It adds variety to the seasons.
  4. Pedicures are my favorite affordable vice.
  5. I think Legos are one of the most brilliant toys ever designed (right up there with the oversize cardboard box) but they need more female lego "men."
  6. I think people who talk during movies should be thrown out. Repeat offenders should be put through a movie courtesy training course - like driving school - only duller.
  7. In college, I got a palm-sized muffler burn on my leg from my boyfriend's motorcycle. He tried to comfort me by telling me it was a "macho" scar.
  8. I was born in New Orleans.
  9. I would love to move overseas for a couple of years. Kuala Lumpur would be great.
  10. I own grapefruit spoons.
  11. I'd like to get a second cat, but I'm worried about becoming a "crazy cat lady".

Leibster Award Nominees
I don't really follow a lot of blogs. I read a handful, but most of them are quite well known, so I found the nomination process difficult. However, here are two that I check on a fairly regular basis.

Eleven questions for my Leibster award nominees
I don't think I can improve on Leslie's questions, so I'm going with them.
  1. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
  2. Out of all current events, which most sparks your imagination or passion? Why?
  3. If you could recommend only one activity from your last vacation, which would you choose? Why?
  4. Pick your weather poison: Bitingly cold or swelteringly muggy?
  5. Finish this sentence: “She walked up to the information desk,”
  6. What’s your favorite news source?
  7. What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
  8. If you were a cookie, what kind would you be?
  9. Name the best place you’ve lived. Why do you consider it the best?
  10. Share the recipe for the best dish you cook.
  11. What was your last simple pleasure?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is this a hint?

Color me surprised. (and flattered, very, very flattered)

I've been given the Liebster Award.

Which is doubly surprising since I went on hiatus in June and haven't posted since then. I think this is a hint.

The Leibster Award aims to raise the profile of blogs and bloggers who may not have yet achieved widespread attention.

The Liebster Award is very idiosyncratic. It is given at the discretion of other bloggers, and the rule is that if you accept, you have to give it 3-5 bloggers you feel are deserving of the award.

There are a few other requirements:

  • Link to the blogger who gave me the award: Leslie Farnsworth, who writes an excellent blog, well worth checking out.
  • Answer the eleven questions my nominator sent.
  • List eleven facts about myself.
  • Give the award to 3-5 other bloggers with fewer than 2,000 followers (or whom I feel deserve more recognition.)
  • Ask the bloggers to whom I've given the award eleven questions

Leslie's 11 Questions to Me

1. What was the last book you read? Would your recommend it? The last book I read was Petty Treason - which is a fun couple of hours solving a mystery in Regency England. Not great literature, but a good time.

2. Out of all current events, which most sparks your imagination or passion? Why? The Affordable Health Care Act. On one hand, I support the goals of the bill, however, it is hard to justify legislation that is so poorly written and the execution of which was so incredibly bad.

3. If you could recommend only one activity from your last vacation, what would you choose? Why? Photography. Taking pictures trains you to spend time really looking at a place, not just letting it pass by in a blur of scenery. Even if your shots don't come out, your memories will be that much sharper, because you took the time to really look.

4. Pick your weather poison: Bitingly cold or swelteringly muggy? I'll take heat every time. Heat inspires better drinks.

5. Finish this sentence: "She walked up to the information desk, hoping, in vain, that someone would be there." That's what always happens when I go to the information desk.

6. What's your favorite news source? I toggle between NPR, BBC America, and PBS

7. What is the best advice your mother ever gave you? Don't let stuff accumulate: use it, donate it or throw it out.

8. If you were a cookie, what kind would you be? Oatmeal raisin: a bit old fashioned and not the prettiest in the shop, but with surprising warmth and depth of flavor.

9. Name the best place you've lived. Why do you consider it the best? Singapore. Not only lovely, but probably the happiest time in my life.

10. Share the recipe for the best dish you cook. And give away all my secrets?

11. What was your last simple pleasure? Waking up in the dark on a Sunday morning after the first real cold snap, and turning on the fireplace.

I will have to think about the rest and post on Friday.