I’ve fallen a little in love with eggplants. And maybe a little in love with Inspector Montalbano too. The books and TV episodes aren’t just smart and witty detective mysteries, they’re also a tribute to the glories of Sicilian food.
You can serve Caponata in so many ways
And so we come to the eggplant, or aubergine, or melanzana, and a dish which is waiting for Montalbano when he comes home for lunch. Montalbano enjoys a light lunch of caponata with an artichoke/spinach pistaccio.
Back in the house, he opened the refrigerator. Adelina must have come down with an acute form of vegetarianism. Caponata and a sublime pasticcio of artichokes and spinach. He set the table on the veranda and wolfed down the caponata as the pasticcio was heating up. Then he reveled in the pasticcio.
—The Paper Moon (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries)
Caponata. It’s somewhere between a salad and a stew.
You can pile caponata on top of fresh crusty bread for a perfect lunch. Use more liquid and pour it as a sauce over pasta for a hearty vegetarian dinner, or on its own in a bowl with bread to dip on the side.
How to Prepare the Eggplants
You can steam eggplants, or eat them fried, stir-fried, boiled, sauteed or cooked in the microwave. If you’re feeling creative, stuff them. I like to bake mine.
Like its cousin, the tomato, the eggplant has edible thin skin, so peeling is your choice. If you leave the skin on, you add colour and interest. Peeling off the skin gives you a smoother texture.
To avoid any hint of a bitter taste, slice, salt and then rinse. Eggplants can soak up large amounts of cooking fats and oils but the salting process will reduce the amount absorbed.
- 2 -3 medium Eggplants, peeled sliced and salted
- 1 -2 medium onions - diced
- 1.2 cup chopped celery
- 6 -8 ripe Roma tomatoes or 1 can of diced tomatoes
- I cup green olives - pitted and sliced
- 2 TBsp red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- A cup of torn flat-leaved parsley
- A little olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Take your salted and dried eggplant slices and chop them into wedges
- Lightly mix the wedges together with a little olive oil until each eggplant piece is lightly coated.
- Put the wedges on a lined baking tray and cook in a moderate oven for 15- 20 minutes until tender and wilted. I've found that eggplants won't work if they're undercooked, they must be cooked through until soft, smooth, and creamy.
- In a pan or saucepan, saute the onion and celery until the onion is clear.
- Add the tomatoes and saute for about 10 minutes.
- Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and pour it into the pan. Stir and simmer for 10 minutes
- Add the eggplant wedges and the olives. Stir though on low heat for another 5 minutes.
- Stir the parsley through