Caponata

Eggplant Caponata on Crisped Flat Bread
Last night, I attended the launch party for Edible SLO magazine, a publication that I've written for since its inception 2 years ago. It was quite impressive and rewarding to see each issue lined up in succession, but it was even more enjoyable to mingle and connect with other contributors, advertisers, and of course, finally meet my editor.

Writing is a strange enough occupation on its own. Writers spend long hours alone, talk to themselves, and tend to forge deep relationships with people online that they've never met in person, or even talked with on the phone. Mostly, I think, we're observers of life, most comfortable stepping away from the action and watching scenes unfold around us. We like to analyze information, turn it over in our minds, process it, and then translate it--at least try--for others.

I enjoyed the event and had a several great conversations with an interesting mix of people. I also met another writer and really enjoyed connecting with her and sharing a few stories about our work. But then, I found myself in writer's mode, silently slipping around the room, listening in on other conversations, taking in the details, and of course, making mental notes. Talking to a writer is risky; one can never be sure that what they say won't wind up in a story down the line.

I arrived home well past dinner. Mr. B had already eaten and since the earlier part of my day had been frantic, he'd had to scratch together his meal from a mix of leftovers. Thus, my only option was to rummage through the refrigerator in search of the leftovers of the leftovers. Luckily, I spied a jar containing the last of the caponata I'd made on Saturday. I'm not sure how Mr. B overlooked it, but his questionable eyesight turned out to be my lucky break.

Caponata, or eggplant salad, is a traditional Sicilian dish made from 'fried' eggplant, celery, olives and tomatoes. Just like anything, it has its regional variances and depending on where you are in Sicily, it can contain fish or anchovies, pine nuts and even raisins. I've even seen recipes that included a spoonful of cocoa powder. It's a simple dish to make, but be warned, it's highly addictive. In fact, it took me only minutes to polish off the entire jar, stopping only long enough to put down my caponata topped flat bread and take a picture.

It made for the perfect late evening August dinner. I enjoyed eating it standing up at the kitchen counter and recounting, for Mr. B, the events of the evening.

Easy Caponata
1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and diced
1 sweet onion, finely minced
3-4 stalks of leafy celery, finely minced
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 small can of anchovy stuffed olives, drained and coarsely chopped
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons of capers, drained
pinch of red pepper flakes
white vermouth
white balsamic vinegar
zest of one lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8-10 leaves of fresh basil, finely minced

1. Place eggplant in a colander in the sink and generously sprinkle with salt; let sit for 20 minutes.
2. Thoroughly rinse the eggplant--make sure to spend time on this step, otherwise the end result will be overly salty and even, inedible.
3. Pour 1/4 cup of olive oil into a heavy pan large enough to hold the eggplant and heat until hot, but not smoking.
4. Add the red pepper flakes, onion, garlic and celery and cook until softened.
5.. Add the eggplant to the pan and stir to coat with the hot oil; cook until soft, but slightly sticking to the bottom of the pan.
6. Add 1/2 cup of white vermouth and cook until nearly evaporated.
7. Stir in the tomatoes, olives and capers and cook until thick--about 20 minutes.
8. Add the lemon zest and a few tablespoons of vinegar; cook for 5 minutes and then season to taste.
9. Just before removing from the heat, stir in 1/3 cup of good quality olive oil and the basil.
10. Cool to room temperature; serve with crusty bread.

*Even better served the second, or third day, as the flavors deepen.

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