Friday, April 13, 2012

Solar Eggplant Caponata

How can people say they don't eat eggplant when God loves the color and the French love the name? I don't understand. 
—Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet
 The only thing I like better than an eggplant burger is a chocolate covered eggplant burger.
—Shaggy (talking to Scooby Doo)

It was sunny today and I didn't have any real plans as to what to cook, but no way could I let the day go by without using the solar oven. It would be wasteful, non-frugal, downright lazy not to cook outside today. After a bit of head scratching I decided to make something with the eggplant I bought the other day. It was a good deal, too. I got two eggplants and two carrots bundled together for $1.50 off the discounted vegetable table at Waldbaums, along with three grapefruits for 59¢ and a cauliflower for 99¢. As far as I could tell there was nothing wrong with any of it. Rick isn't a super huge fan of eggplant, though, so I threw a few recipe ideas at him so he wouldn't complain too much afterward. He chose caponata, although he claims not remember that and thought he picked curry. I pretty much just rolled my eyes at him.

Eggplant caponata is a pretty easy recipe and there are tons of variations. If you google it, or look it up in a cookbook, you'll find everyone has their own version. So, as always, improvisation is the name of the game. Below is how I made mine today, but that's because it's all the green pepper and tomato I had on hand. I also only had some typical stuffed green salad olives, but green Sicilian olives would work well also. Feel free to add more or less of some of these ingredients.

1 eggplant (no need to peel it), cut into fairly large cubes.
1 cup onion, chopped 
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/3 cup green or red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2–3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
pinch of crushed red pepper

1/4 cup green olives, chopped in half
1 tablespoon capers
3 anchovy filets mashed to a paste

1. Heat oil in a frying pan and cook eggplant until it browns a bit (4 or 5 minutes). Do this in batches if necessary. Transfer the eggplant to a black solar cooking pot.
2. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, crushed red pepper, and garlic to the frying pan. Saute for a few minutes and then add the diced tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, herbs, and spices. Heat for a few minutes, then pour the mixture over the eggplant.
3. Cover the pot and place it in the solar cooker for 2 or 3 hours depending on temperature. My sun oven started off at 275º and climbed up to 350º, and I kept the eggplant out there for 2 1/2 hours.
4. Bring dish inside when vegetables are tender. Stir in the mashed anchovies, capers, olives, and a drizzle of olive oil. Adjust seasonings.
5. Leave dish stand at room temperature for several hours to blend flavors. Serve with a warm crusty bread.

Eggplant Caponata made in the solar oven.
photo by the hubby
Rick didn't think the eggplant caponata looked very appetizing for the photo shoot, though, so I grated some orange peel to scatter on top for photo appeal. If I'd had fresh lemons I would have grated lemon instead, but the orange peel actually tasted pretty good when I mixed it in after Rick took the photos. 


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