Friday, December 16, 2005
I could eat eggplant at least every week. Cooked just right, there is nothing so delicious. I like to use the uniform center slices for fried eggplant or eggplant parmesan. When you are already sautéing eggplant, it is easy to chop up the smaller pieces and whip up a little caponata at the same time. Caponata is Italian eggplant appetizer. My mother-in-law always called it caponatine.
First you need to sex your eggplant. I've discussed this before but in case you missed it in June, here's the skinny:
To determine the sex of an eggplant, you will need to look at the bulbous end. Check out the navel" there on the fat end. If the scar indentation is round, it is a female eggplant. If it is oblong, it is male. Since male eggplants have less seeds, always try to buy the manly veggie."
This is a male eggplant.
Cube the extra and leftover over pieces of your eggplants or just devote a whole eggplant or two to your dish. I prefer cubes about a half inch in size but you don't need to be exact, just roughly cube the eggplant. Don't peel it. Salt and pepper and let the cubes sit a minute or so while you get the other veggies cooking. Sautee in your best virgin olive oil, chopped sweet red, green or yellow bell pepper and some chopped onion for a couple of minutes before adding some chopped fresh tomato and the cubed eggplant. If you have extra tomato gravy (that's spaghetti sauce to the non-Italian), you can add a little of that in addition to the tomatoes. Add some coarsely chopped black or green olives, but not both, just one or the other. Don't chop anything too finely for this is a rustic dish.
I cook on high heat because I like fast results but you could cook this on medium heat if you are worried about over-cooking. Shake and flip the contents of the pan -- or if you are chicken, stir with a wooden spoon. After about two minutes, add some finely chopped garlic and continue cooking another 2 minutes.
Add your herbs. An Italian herb mix will work if you don't have fresh oregano, thyme and basil. Fresh chopped parsley should be added if you have it. Add herbs to taste. I like a lot of herbs. As soon as the herbs are added and distributed, add a splash of red wine. Never buy cooking wine. Just add some of whatever red you are drinking. You should always drink wine when you cook. Heck, you could even add some white wine but red is better. Drink red wine, please. So add some of your red wine. Save the white wine for when you are cooking fish.
By now, your caponata is done. Turn the gas off or remove from burner if using an electric stove. (Don't get me started on electric stoves, I dislike them). Caponata is better at room temp or slightly chilled so if you can wait, chill it for a little while or save it for the next day's appetizer or hor d'oeuvre. Store it in the fridge in a crock or small bowl and cover tightly.
When you are ready to enjoy a little caponatine, make your toast by mixing a pat or two of sweet cream butter (not margarine) and a little splash of good olive oil in a skillet. When the butter's melted and you've swirled the olive oil and butter together, add some thinly sliced French or Cuban bread. Bread that is the size of a baguette is best since these are appetizers. I butter one side and not the other and the buttered side gets rubbed with a cut clove of fresh garlic when I turn it over. It's toast in a pan. Very easy.
Serve the toast warm or at room temp, whichever you prefer. When ready to serve, top each little toast, butter fried side up, with a heap of caponata. Serve with wine or your fave cocktail.
And, if you wonder why this entry is entitled "Caponatine," that is what my MIL always called it. "Cap-uh-Nah-TEEN" means "a little" caponata. I dare you to try to eat just a little.