Grilled Aubergine Caponata
This weekend my wife & I hosted a dinner party for some friends including our youngest daughter’s confirmation mentor. We wanted to prepare something special so my wife dug through some of my old Food & Wine mags and found this California Grilled Feast in a 2012 summer edition. As she often does, she recreates the entire or at least most of the recipes included in the article to serve to our guests.
What is Caponata?
Caponata is a classic Sicilian stew made with eggplant (aubergine), celery, capers, vinegar and brown sugar. You are basically making a sweet and sour dish that can be adjusted by the amount of vinegar (sour) you add or the amount of sugar (sweet). Depending on your own personal tastes, you can adjust the ratio. I’ve seen recipes using red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (our choice).
The grilled eggplant caponata was prepared as an appetizer and served with sesame flatbread crackers from Di Bruno Bros., but you could also serve it as a side dish especially with fish. I’ve been eating leftovers of the caponata for lunch for a couple of days now and still cannot get enough. You know this is a “good as it gets” recipe when everyone at the table asked for a copy of the recipe. So here it is.
Grilled Eggplant Caponata Recipe
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 - one pound eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise in 1/2-inch thick slices
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, extra for brushing
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/4 cup currants
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more if you like it really hot, less if you don’t like hot at all)
1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
1/4 cup chipped mint
How To Prepare At Home
Toast the Pine Nuts
You can toast them in a small frying pan on top of the stove or roast them in a preheated oven (350ºF) for about 4 minutes. They are done when they turn golden brown. Let them cool and reserve.
Grill the Eggplant
Preheat your grill. While it is heating up, brush the eggplant slices with some of the extra olive oil then season with salt & pepper. Grill the eggplant over medium heat until tender. There may be some charring going on and that’s fine. Let the eggplant cool down and cut into 1/2 inch dice.
Cook, Combine & Serve
Heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, celery, currants, crushed red pepper and reserved toasted pine nuts. Cook over medium heat until the onions and celery soften. Be sure to stir often so nothing burns. This should take about 10 minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes, light brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Adjust the heat to bring the ingredients to a simmer. You want to cook this down for about 8 minutes until most of the liquids have evaporated.
Add the diced eggplant and olives to the skillet. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve at room temperature with the chopped mint as a garnish.
This dish is As Good As It Gets
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