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.


  1. Sigh. I really wish you lived closer, so I could make surprise visit around about what I guesstimate is mealtime. That looks fabulous!