Spicy eggplant caponata
Every Sicilian grandmother has a recipe for caponata – some calling for as much as a cup of olive oil. No offense to those nonnas, but that’s overkill in my book. While this recipe certainly doesn’t skimp on the oil, I rely more on spicy red pepper, fresh herbs and raw garlic to provide bold flavor. Rather than a traditional chunky, relish-y caponata, this one is more like a spread, due to the roasted eggplant. It’s delicious on crusty bread. I tried it out on the Italian nun who lives next door to me (seriously!) Of course, she’s not a nonna, but her approval was good enough for me.
Spicy Eggplant Caponata
1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, inner stalks, diced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1½ cups Pomi chopped tomatoes
¼ cup red wine vinegar (make sure your vinegar is gluten-free if you are gluten-sensitive)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon fresh thyme (optional but good)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
8 chopped pitted kalamata olives
¼ cup minced roasted red peppers (optional)
3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons golden raisins, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin.) Roast face down on a baking sheet, covered in foil and sprayed with oil, until tender – about 20 minutes. Let drain in a colander for 10 minutes, cut side down. Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and chop coarsely.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, cinnamon and sugar and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives, pine nuts, raisins and parsley and cook for 5 minutes more. Add garlic. Season to taste. Cool to room temperature.
Serves 6 as an appetizer