Everyday Eggplant Caponata

IMG_9981I love the “day-of” produce at Findlay market. I often get piles of produce that only need a little love with a paring knife to become deliciously edible, and it’s usually super, super cheat. Wins.  On one recent visit, I snatched up a pound of Roma Tomatoes (slightly soft) and a big sad-looking eggplant, which had a deep bruise on one side.  No worries, I had plans for these (insert weird evil cooking cackle here).

Caponata is really one of those words that means vegetables cooked together, seasoned and served cold. Everyone has their own recipe and their own spin on it. This caponata is chunky, slightly sweet and wildly versatile.  I find tomatoes on their own can to be too acidic, so I wanted to temper the acid of the tomatoes and vinegar with a bit of sweetness. Rather than add capers, another tang (which is traditional) to the caponata, I added raisins. Trust me, it works. Just adds that bit of sweetness to the acidic bite. Whole roasting the eggplant first adds to the mellowness of flavor as well.

Perfect as a side dish to a grilled filet, or as a beautiful spread on a cheese board or even a spicy first layer to a soppressata sandwich – you’ll be digging into this caponata all week long (or just digging in with a spoon in the fridge as I often did too).  Today, I spread a thick layer on a deliciously messy egg sandwich and it was perfect.

Everyday Eggplant Caponata
2 tbs olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, peeled & diced
1 lb Roma Tomatoes (about 6 medium size), diced*
1 large eggplant
1/4 c. raisins
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
sea salt
black pepper
*You may peel the tomatoes if you prefer, but I don’t mind the skins here as they break down beautifully.

Preheat oven to 350. Add eggplant, whole, in peel to the top rack. Allow to par-cook for about 25 minutes, turning once. In a deep saucepan, heat oil. Add garlic, toss until lightly browned, then add tomatoes. While eggplant is roasting, saute the tomatoes with the garlic and oil until soft (sprinkle with salt and pepper as you go).

Remove eggplant from oven. Using a vegetable peeler and a fork (eggplant will be crazy hot), gently pull the skin away from the eggplant. By now the eggplant should be soft, but firm enough to dice. Trim ends and dice whole eggplant. Add eggplant to tomato mix, sprinkling in more sea salt/black pepper. Add raisins, vinegar and red pepper flakes. Toss together for another 5 minutes or so, or until tomatoes have all but broken down, the eggplant is tender and raisins have plumped a bit. Remove from heat and allow to cool. I prefer to wait until it’s completely cool to re-season, giving this time to marry. Add more heat or more acid to your preference. Not surprising, it’s better the next day.
Serves 4 as a side dish or 6 as a party spread. 

IMG_9983I ate this in 3 bites.

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