EGGPLANT CAPONATA & HERBACEOUS LENTIL SALAD DINNER last night
This vegetarian dinner really hit the spot. The caponata is so rich, sweet and vinegary and makes a great topping with bread and cheese, or over fish or meat. It’s traditionally a staple of most Sicilian grandmama’s homes, so you can follow suit and save your extras in a jar for a sandwich or a rain day. The secret ingredient for my caponata is bittersweet chocolate, divulged to me by a real, live Sicilian mama! I served it with the crunchiest baguette from Bien Cuit Bakery and some Pyrenées de Chèvre cheese and a Rioja red wine. The lentil salad is also super versatile, but I always like to add a dressing to it to give its earthy flavor a little tangy kick. I also discovered that rosemary and lentils exist very happily together. The dessert was from Bien Cuit: a Chocolate Banana Bourbon Tart — pretty bold!
1 large eggplant (cubed), 1/2 can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, including liquid (chop the tomatoes), olive oil, a few sliced up olives, 3 tablespoons of capers, flat-leafed Italian parsley (run over with the knife once so as not to lose essential oils and flavors of the herb), 1/2 of a yellow onion (chopped), a few cloves of garlic (sliced), 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar, salt and pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, and a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips (secret ingredient!)
Heat up a large pan on a medium-high flame with a generous amount of olive oil. Once it’s begun to heat up, add the chopped onions and sliced garlic. While this is happening, rinse, dry, and dice up the eggplant. Add the eggplant in batches so it cooks evenly, and add more olive oil and salt and pepper for each round, it takes about 3 batches and it shrinks down (see picture #2 above). Half a can of Marzano tomatoes will yield about 4 tomatoes — cut those into cubes and to the more or less cooked eggplant. Then add the olives and the capers and mix. Then the chocolate and sugar (to taste and mix until the chocolate is melty. Finally add the vinegar and pine nuts and incorporate. The caponata should be soft, dark in color and glistening.
LENTIL SALAD INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of lentils (rinsed and sorted through), 1-1 1/2 cups of water (or chicken or vegetable broth), 1/2 of a yellow onion (diced), 2 cloves of garlic (sliced), 1 teaspoon of paprika,1 teaspoon of cumin, 3 bay leaves, 5 sprigs of thyme, 1 sprig of rosemary and a few leafless sprigs from the Italian parsley for flavor (rinsed & tied all together in kitchen twine to make an herb bouquet, which makes it easier to discard afterwards),2 tablespoons of currants, 2 handfuls of arugula, and some goat cheese.
Dressing ingredients: 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 5-6 chives (chopped), 1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses, juice from 1/2 a lemon, salt & pepper (to taste).
LENTIL SALAD INSTRUCTIONS:
Heat up a small pot on a medium-high flame. Once it’s heated up, add chopped onion, garlic and the herbs. Once the onion is a bit translucent, add the lentils and cover with liquid. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer and add the paprika, cumin, currants, salt & pepper. Cook 20-30 minutes, or until the lentil taste soft enough. Drain in colander and let rest a bit. Once it’s cooled, discard the herbs. For the dressing, start with the Dijon mustard, add the olive oil and whisk. Then add the vinegars, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, chives, salt & pepper and whisk until emulsified. Combine the lentils and the dressing in a medium bowl. Add broken up bits of goat cheese (however much you want) and the arugula and mix.