I don’t often make other’s recipes, but my cousin Audra gave me this recipe to try because I just don’t like eggplant! No matter how I prepare it, it just does not get a long with my palette…nor the texture with my mouth. She said this is the one, the one her small sons will eat…I figure if the kids will, I should! And you know what? It was wonderful.
So I wanted to try this recipe, out of a West Shore Symphony cookbook…for those of us from Michigan we know the Muskegon based group as a symphony orchestra that has been performing musical pieces for the last 70 years. Now, while I have not heard the ensemble in person, anyone from Muskegon holds a certain regard in my heart as it was the birthplace of my father and the past home of my fantastic and inspring grandparents.
My grandma never made me eggplant, but she is THE inspiration for my passions. Food, recipes, garden, snapping beans, making cookies, baking, my grandma was one of the most wonderful women in my life. She was so sweet and so wrinkly, I remember the day when I fit neatly beneath the crook of her arm pit, back before I won the race of height. I will never forget the smallest of details about her. I truly believe she instilled in me a sense of urban homesteading…a woman who truly homesteaded…and moonshined…moved to the city and gardened in limited space, to raise 7 children and please a husband!! I think my soft spot is mushy over this woman!
I often wonder what my grandma would think about my gardens, my hard work, my meals. I think about it as I consume this eggplant dish, provided by another of my grandmother’s offspring!
So, we made Caponata. I had to do a little research on this one to see what we were getting ourselves into. This is a traditional Sicilian dish served most often as a side. The key is to keep the dish undercooked to maintain the integrity of the ingredients. All of them are so fresh and bright, but have the tendancy to turn to mush when hot heat is applied to them for too long. In typical fashion, though I set out to use the recipe supplied, I have wandered quite a bit here. However, I think we still succeeded in keeping the integrity of the dish insomuch as we have made Caponata and used eggplant!
Just opening the book that chronicles the life of my grandma makes me smile. I am sure there is much, much more to come.
1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 T olive oil
1 small red onion, diced (no more than 1/2 cup)
3 stalks celery, thinly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large tomato, seeded and cubed
1/2 C black olives, quartered (about half a can)
2 T red wine vinegar (you could use white or champagne too)
2 T slivered almonds
Pepper to taste
Peel and cube eggplant, placing it in a colander in the sink or over a bowl. Season generously with salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes to one hour. It is important with eggplant that you remove the excess liquid from it or else it will become quite soggy. While your eggplant is draining, prepare the rest of your veggies. Rinse the eggplant well to avoid your dish being too salty. Pat dry.
Cook eggplant in 2 T of olive oil over medium-high heat in a single layer for about 5-8 minutes. You want to brown it on each side, so flip these as they cook. Remove from pan and set aside. If you have too much eggplant to cook in a single layer do two batches adding more oil as needed to keep the pan well greased. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining olive oil and onions to the pan. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic and celery and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.
Add tomatoes, olives, eggplant, vinegar, and pepper. Mix well. Add almonds and allow to cool slightly before serving. If you want to make this a complete dish you can toss with some cooked quinoa to add whole grain and protein. Or you can cool and refrigerate and serve as a cold salad the next day. You can also accompany with a tablespoon or so of fresh parsley or tarragon.