Friday, December 11, 2015

Caponata: The Culinary Equivalent of Celebrity Sex Pics

This is another recipe I have unabashedly stolen (and improved upon) from an unnamed restaurant I once worked at. Like stolen celebrity sex pics and 100-year-old Irish drinking songs, this recipe is just too good not to be in out there in the public domain. So by stealing this recipe and posting it, it's basically an act of selfless community service I'm performing. You'll thank me later.

If you're unfamiliar, caponata--which is somewhat similar to ratatouille--is a classic Sicilian condiment. However, caponata is zingier thanks to the addition of olives, vinegar and capers. It can be enjoyed as a delicious cold appetizer spread that’s great on crackers or bread, it can be used as a vegan spread for sandwiches. You can even toss it warm with hot pasta and warm brie cheese for an amazingly decadent dinner.  Note that this is a pretty huge (party-size) portion. You may want to halve this if not feeding a football team.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

1 large eggplant
2/3 cup olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne (or a bit more to taste)
1/3 cup carrots, diced finely
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce (or 4 tomatoes pureed and cooked down with a bit of salt)
1 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
3 TBSP sugar
1.5 TBSP capers
1/3 cups red wine vinegar
2 tsp Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Peel eggplant, then dice into ¼-inch cubes. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and spread on a cookie sheet and place in oven. Roast until soft (about 20 minutes). Remove from oven.

Heat a large pan, Dutch oven, or wok over medium high heat. Add remaining oil. When oil is hot, add eggplant, carrot, onion, garlic, and celery and sauté, stirring frequently until onion becomes transparent—about 10 minutes. Now add all other ingredients EXCEPT pine nuts and parsley and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until vegetables begin to break down a bit and most of the excess liquid has cooked off, stirring frequently. This can take some time—30 minutes to 1 hour in most cases, but it can vary depending on how juicy your veggies are. Just don’t cook everything into a total paste. Add parsley when the mixture is about done and sauté for 2 more minutes.

Remove from heat and toss in pine nuts. Salt and pepper to taste. Add enough salt to balance out the sugar and other flavors.

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