Last week I’ve journeyed to a few places, some (and I am one of them) consider as culinary paradises! I’ve started the week, by jetting off to Italy then after a quick return and repack of suitcases it was off to Spain. Not that I’m complaining. I’m really not.
Travelling and switching scenery is one of the things I enjoy most as well as being able to discover the variety of local flavors. I have a very special place for Mediterranean cuisine in my heart and visiting the countries in the region I tend to have rather high expectations for the food. While each journey brings new surprises and occasionally leads to the discovery of unknown culinary gems, there are times when things just don’t live up to expectations. Last week, I’ve had plenty of risottos, polenta dishes, paellas and squids. While I can never have too much of squid and good risottos, I’ve come to realize that I only enjoy polenta in limited quantities and that very few restaurants can produce paellas of worthy quality.
Despite a few lows of the culinary ventures, I have tried a couple of dishes that were great beyond words and now I’m in the process of coming up with my own versions of them. I’ll keep you posted!
In the meanwhile, I want to share a dish from my earlier trips to Sicily. Eggplant caponata is basically eggplant in tomato sauce, that tastes simply divine. Combining two of my favorite ingredients this dish unusually addictive and it’s always wise to make a little extra, to be able to enjoy the coming days.
Traditionally caponata should include olives, celery and occationally other sorts of things, but having tried a good share of recipes I’ve decided to simplify it to my liking, focusing on eggplants and tomatoes. Somehow, celery just doesn’t work for me here and olives if used, should be in very little quantities.
This dish is usually served in a large place as a dip, but it can also make a nice appetizer or canape!
- 2 large eggplants
- 100 ml sunflower oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 500ml tomato passata
- 30 g almonds
- 30 g pistachios
- 30 g pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon unsalted capers, washed and pat dried
- salt and freshly grounded pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- a few handfuls of basil leaves, chopped
- Toasted bread to serve
- Slice theeggplants lengthways in about 1 cm thick slices. Sprinkle generously with salt and leave in the colander for about an hour. This will drain the water and bitterness out of the aubergines.
- When ready, wash the eggplants with cold water and dry them well. The best is to wrap a slice of aubergine in a towel and press it between the palm of your hands.
- Dice the eggplants and fry them in sunflower oil till golden brown.
- Using a slotted spoon remove them from the an and place on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. You may need to do this in two batches.
- Crush all the nuts in mortar.
- Heat a little olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion on medium heat till soft and tender. This will take about 7 minutes.
- Add the tomato passata, nuts, capers, salt, pepper and sugar, followed by the fried eggplant. Stir well and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Next, turn the heat up, add the vinegar and cook for 3-5 more minutes.
- Check the seasoning, add salt, pepper as needed or in case too sour a little more sugar.
- When fully happy with the taste balance, take of the heat and stir in the chopped basil leaves, set aside to cool.
- Enjoy the caponata with some toasted bread and Italian wine!