Monday, September 24, 2012

Meatless Monday - Cannibal Eggplant and Sicilian Caponata

Cannibal Eggplant.  Kind of sounds like Hannibal Lecter and actually has a lot in common.  More on that to come.  In the meantime, see if you can guess which of these is that varietal?

I learned a lot about eggplant during our jaunt at Wild Boar Farms last week.  I knew there were tiny green eggplants, both fat, round and long, thin purple and the white/purple striped ones.  But yellow, orange and various versions of other colored stripes?  And an eggplant with a storied past? 

I had no idea.

Wild Boar has a demo garden for Baker Heirloom Seeds and it was fascinating.  My first encounter was with this strange siting:
They looked like tomatoes or cherry peppers, but didn't have the same kind of leaves as either of these fruits, and they were very hard and dense.  I asked one of the guys on the farm (Brad the owner was away from the tent picking more fruit.) and they said the Baker Seed catalog had been borrowed and not returned so they had no way to identify.  I think I may have discovered they are Black Stem Eggplant which is more of an ornamental eggplant, apparently.

Once I heard there were lots of varieties, I went on a hunt.  Though I picked up the typical kinds to make a caponata, I HAD to pick some of the others just for fun. 

After researching upon arriving back home, I found out the  three yellow ones are a Asian eggplant varietals which I may try in Caponata after tasting.

As for Cannibal Eggplant...It's actually called Cannibal Tomato Eggplant and it's the little red one in the middle of the photo above I believe. To spare those of you who don't want to know the gory details, I'll simply LINK TO the info. Suffice it to say, the name is appropro according to the legend and it is really too bitter to eat.  So it is really only a novelty for most palates, including ours. 

What's Caponata, you've been thinking?

It's our favorite way to eat eggplant--a Sicilian sweet and sour preparation that we eat with crusty bread and cheese for a quick lunch. For dinner, it's takes simple grilled fish up to rock star status.  Picnics get upgraded with paninis of Caponata, fresh Mozzarella, basil and grilled chicken. Finally, you can stir it in with cooked white beans and a can of tuna then serve over arugula or mixed greens for a super quick and light main dish salad.

Easily prepared in about 30 minutes, it will last in the fridge for at least a week but you can also freeze it if you have an overabundance of eggplant and want to make several batches. 

Ready to find out how to make it?  After you do, let me know how you enjoy eating it the best...

Sicilian Caponata -- My Way
1 large or 2 medium eggplant (about 2 lbs)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped onion

red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt or as needed to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste or 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp organic sugar or 1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp balsamic, sherry or red wine vinegar
1/2 cup raisins (I've used both golden and dark)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, optional

Cut the eggplant into 1/2" chunks. 

In a very large skillet, heat 3 tbsp olive oil with the garlic until the garlic starts to turn slightly golden.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a small strainer over a bowl and add the onion to the pan.  Let it cook for a bit, then remove the onion to the strainer.  Add any drained oil back to the pan. 

Carefully only enough eggplant cover the bottom of the skillet.  

Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt then let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes until you can smell the eggplant getting a little toasty.  Carefully turn it to reveal the golden undersides and salt with another 1/4 tsp salt.  (If you were able to fit all the eggplant at one time into the skillet, adjust the salt as necessary.  You may need a bit more or less.)  When the eggplant has softened a bit stir it and push it to one side of the pan then add the remaining eggplant and remaining oil to make a single layer in the other side of the pan.  (I was able to fit way more than half the first time around so I only needed to use half the pan, but if you have a lot of eggplant left, remove what has already cooked to the strainer with the onion and cook the rest.) Repeat the cooking process with the remaining eggplant.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomato paste and a big pinch of red pepper flakes.  Stir until the tomato paste takes on a darker color and begins to coat the vegetables.

Add the onions and garlic, sugar, vinegar and raisins then stir it all together with a rubber spatula to combine everything well without breaking up the eggplant. (Sorry for the blurry "action" shot.)

Finally, add the pine nuts if using.

I stash mine in 1/2 pint canning jars since tomato paste tends to discolor plastics.  It will keep for a week in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Print Page Copyright 2012 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

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