| Since that "caponata" instance many years ago, Chef Dave has received a slew of complements on this Italian bonanza of flavor. It will be a hit for you as one of the first offerings to get “quaffed” at an afternoon get together, guaranteed! |
What’s so great about it? Well, it’s extremely tasty, how about that? And, you won’t find it all that often, either. That’s too bad. Try this caponata recipe and you’ll see why it gets so many complements.
*Be sure to caramelize the eggplant. This means you want it to be browned and crispy. The eggplant will quickly absorb the olive oil when you add it to the pan and this will help the caramelizing process.
*Use Butter Buds to add a huge boost to the balsamic/red wine reduction. It has 10 calories per tablespoon, and no fat or sugar -- an amazing and very versatile flavor enhancer. Find it in the Spice section of your grocery.
*When you add the vegetables to the pan, cover the pan and reduce the heat. This will allow the salt to help the vegetables release their juices. This adds another very significant layer of flavor.
New Italian Recipes Presents:
Italian Eggplant Caponata
1 large eggplant, chopped into ¾ inch pieces
2 + 2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped into small pieces 3-5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 stalk of finely chopped celery
1/2 red bell pepper, minced
1 cup homemade Italian tomato sauce. Or you can use a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes.
2 T Butter Buds
3 T finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
¼ cup red wine
3 T capers
¼ black olives, chopped
3 T balsamic vinegar
½ t cocoa powder
2 T turbinado sugar, brown sugar (or Agave Nectar)
¼ cup fresh chopped basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place the eggplant cubes in a colander and apply about 2 T of salt. Shake the colander to coat the eggplant evenly with the salt. Set the colander in the sink and put a plate inside the colander so it is in direct contact with the eggplant. Place a weight, such as some heavy canned good like a 28 ounce can of tomatoes, on the plate so the plate will press down on the eggplant. (The purpose is to squeeze some of the sometimes bitter juices out of the eggplant. (About half an hour.)
Wipe off the eggplant to remove as much of the salt and clinging juices as you can.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet to medium high. Add the eggplant and stir or toss to coat. Let the eggplant brown well on one side before you turn it again so it will caramelize. When browned and crispy, remove and reserve to add back in later.
Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan. Scrape up any browned leavings form the eggplant with a plastic spatula or a wooden spoon. Do not remove because this is really good stuff.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the onions, celery, red bell pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and black pepper and cover the pan. Let sauté for about 4 minutes. There should be some juices that have cooked out of the vegetables by then. This is really good stuff also.
Add the garlic, black olives, capers, balsamic vinegar, red wine, Butter Buds and sugar (or Agave Nectar), increase heat to medium high and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes. The liquid should be reduced by at least 1/2 or simmer it a bit longer.
Add the caramelized eggplant, basil and the cocoa powder. Cook a minute or two to combine.
Add the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. The mixture should be thickened to “dip” consistency.
This recipe is out-of-sight if refrigerated overnight and brought back to room temperature before serving.
Serve the dip with garlic toast, crostini or toasted pita slices.
Caponata, gourmet chefs, but unless you are decidedly Italian, you may not have ever experienced it. Now you can! You don't know what you've been missing!
Note: If eggplant is not your favorite thing, try this with chopped artichoke hearts. Just add the pieces to the onions to start this dish and cook exactly the same way!
Buon Appetito from Chef Dave
The Villages, FL
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