If you are “afraid of eggplant,” which has been the lament of my very dear friend for the past 27 years, then be “afraid” no more! I have a simple and absolutely delicious recipe for you to try. I suppose eggplant can be an intimidating vegetable, especially if you’re not Italian. Heck, the British don’t even call it eggplant. They call this vegetable aubergine. Who wouldn’t be afraid?
I absolutely love eggplant, and feel that I must have one hundred different ways to prepare it. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but I even make eggplant “meatballs” (I’ll share that recipe soon as well). Eggplant Caponata was never a favorite of mine, and I just couldn’t understand why not, even though I tried countless different ways to make it. It seems that different regions of Italy make it differently, but this was not something my grandmothers or mother made, so I was at a loss. People told me to bake the eggplant, whole, in the oven and then scoop out the middle. Others told me to cut it in chunks and sauté it slowly. Some recipes call for fresh or canned tomatoes, and some just use tomato paste. Some recipes include capers and olives. I’ve even seen anchovies in some of the recipes. Peel the eggplant or leave the skin on? I’ve tried it all, but it wasn’t until I came upon this particular recipe for “roasted eggplant spread” in the Barefoot Contessa’s Cookbook, that I was finally happy. I made a few modifications, and can now say that I am 100% happy with my caponata.
I made Eggplant Caponata for this “eggplant anxious” friend the other night and she loved it. She timidly asked for the recipe, and I convinced her to conquer this fear once and for all and give this recipe a try. There’s nothing to be afraid of. It couldn’t be simpler, and everyone ( even those scared of eggplant) always leave my house wanting the recipe.
1 large eggplant, NOT peeled. The skin gives a great texture and color.
2 red bell peppers
1 red onion , peeled
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 TBSP good olive oil (who uses bad??)
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 TBSP tomato paste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut the eggplant, bell peppers and onion into 1 1/2 inch cubes (roughly).
3. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Spread them on a baking sheet (I usually spray the baking sheet with olive oil spray first).
5. Roast for approximately 45 minutes until vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once or twice during cooking. Cool slightly.
6. Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the tomato paste and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for Salt and pepper.