Browsing Tag

eggplant

Caponata

In this story, the hero is my Aunt Jessie, Grandma, Great Grandma and all my other aunts spread across New York’s boroughs back in the day. This is the cold eggplant dish that was a staple for any special family gathering. This is the exact recipe that has been in my family for years. I have been trying to replicate it but just recently my mom found a photocopy of the actual handwritten recipe and it puts my other versions to shame.

I love that this recipe is completely opposite of how I would typically go about making it if left to my own devices, cooking in aromatic layers of flavor taking into consideration each ingredient. I LOVE how this recipe is like “Oh, you’re a chef? That’s nice. Take a seat and let me show you how an Italian grandma gets it done.” Sometimes it really is as simple as throwing everything in a pot and letting the ingredients and fire do the work.

Caponata is the Sicilian version of ratatouille. You can fill lettuce cups, spread it on garlic toast (my favorite), on sandwiches, etc. You could also go wild and eat warmed up with some pasta. shhh..don’t tell my mom:)

Ingredients
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1 c. mushrooms, diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
⅓ c. olive oil
1 can tomato paste
½ c. water
2 T. red wine vinegar
½ cup pimento stuffed olives, sliced
1 T. granulated sugar
1 t. dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. In a large pot over medium heat combine eggplant, green bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms, garlic and olive oil. cook for around ten minutes, stirring occasionally. season with salt and pepper.
2. Add tomato paste, water, red wine vinegar, olives, sugar and oregano and cook over low heat covered for around 30 minutes, or until eggplant is tender.
3. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.
4. Let cool.

Component in Action
-serve as an appetizer on toast, crackers, along side cheese and/or sliced meats
-make it a salad with fresh greens and a lemon vinaigrette
-caponata sandwich anyone?! yes please. with some fresh mozzarella and bread like toasted ciabatta

Ratatouille

There is a window of time each year where the stars align, the warm winds blow during the day (and maybe could do a better job of cooling at night) but hey it’s worth it, because the queen of all summer dishes has arrived…ratatouille.

The summer staple is smooth and elegant, has a complex texture, bright and bold flavors, and can be enjoyed in oh so many ways. Ratatouille originated in Nice, France where poor farmers cooked this simple vegetable stew to put to use vegetables available to them in the summer months.

This is also where the dried herb blend, herbs de Provence comes in. There are many variations to this regionally inspired spice blend, but the key ingredients are:
summer savory
thyme
basil
marjoram
lavender
parsley
oregano
tarragon
fennel seed and
mint.

This is optional, but adds a third dimension to the dish. I kind of think of it as without herbs de Provence you are sitting in a beautiful restaurant enjoying a simple and delicious summer lunch. When you add herbs de Provence to ratatouille, it’s like the window next to your table is pushed open and a balmy summer breeze enters the room. All of a sudden you notice the garden outside, you can smell the fresh herbs and onions growing just a stones throw away, the stalks of purple lavender sway back and forth and you relax back into your chair and reach for your wine, THAT’S the (totally optional of course) magic of this herb combination.

This recipe calls for the vegetables to be cut into a 1/2 inch dice. You can easily change this to 1 or even 2 inch. This is a rustic dish so it is not as important how big or small the pieces are, but rather that all the pieces are roughly the same size so they cook evenly.

Ingredients
4 T. Olive oil
1 T. Herbs de Provence
Pinch of dried chili flakes (optional)
1 large red onion, 1/2 in. dice
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 T. Tomato paste
1 medium eggplant, 1/2 in. dice
2 red bell peppers, 1/2 in. dice
2 medium zucchini, 1/2 in. dice
3 ripe medium tomatoes, 1/2 in. dice (or can of whole tomatoes, crushed)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. Fresh basil leaves, sliced or torn

Method
1.) preheat oven to 400.
2.) heat oil in a Dutch oven style heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
3.) add herbs de Provence, dried chili flake and cook for a minute or two.
4.) add onion and garlic and cook for about five minutes stirring frequently.
5.) add tomato paste and cook another minute.
6.) add eggplant, red bell pepper, zucchini and tomatoes to pot and stir everything together.
7.) transfer pot to oven and cook for about one hour.
8.) add fresh basil before serving.
9.) enjoy hot or cold!

Components
-serve over pasta or quinoa
-enjoy warm on its own
-serve over squash or sweet potatoes
-serve cold on sandwiches
-serve on toasted bread
-serve over polenta/grits