Eggplant Caponata

While home over Thanksgiving, I tasted an amazing Eggplant Caponata at Gratzi in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Instead of the usual spicing, this caponata had a distinctly Lebanese flavor.  It was absolutely delicious- so good the table devoured it- I only got one bite!  Below is my take on the dish.  I served it warm last night for dinner as part of a vegetable plate.  Tonight I’ll scoop the little I have left over on toasted baguette slices to have with wine.  I can see it becoming a regular in our rotation. Enjoy.

Veggies
3 small eggplant
Olive oil
Sea salt
1-2 lg onions, diced
½ cup pine nuts, toasted

Sauce
1 medium onion, finely diced
Olive oil
Sea salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ carrot, finely grated
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel half of the eggplant and cut peeled and unpeeled portions into ½”-diced. You should have 7-8 cups. Toss with olive oil, season with salt, and spread into a single layer in two 9×13” baking pans. Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until eggplant is soft and lightly browned. It should be chewy/crispy. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a wide, shallow skillet, sauté 1-2 diced onions in olive oil over low heat, seasoning gently with salt. Sauté until soft and lightly browned. Stir in eggplant and remove from heat.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan,  finely sauté diced onion in olive oil over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, or until beginning to opaque. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Add carrot and gently season. Cook until carrot is soft. Add tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, sugar, pinch cayenne and cinnamon. Turn heat up slightly to bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer gently until sauce darkens and thickens. When done, in should have the consistency of lumpy oatmeal. Taste. Sauce should have a distinct taste of cinnamon.  Adjust if necessary.

Scoop a few large spoonfuls of sauce into skillet with onions and eggplant. Fold together. Add enough sauce so that tomatoes are evenly distributed throughout eggplant (a little over half the sauce). Set remaining sauce aside for another use.

If not using right away, let cool, cover and chill. Before serving, stir in toasted pine nuts. Caponata may be served warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 4 cups.

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