Intro

One quick announcement before we move on to Caponata. I am THRILLED to announce that I will be teaching a Food Photography workshop at The Pantry at Delancey in September. I’ll go through my process and we’ll have plenty of time to shoot together so that you walk away feeling inspired and more confident behind the lens. Please come!

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Last night we made it official: It’s picnic season. Roman grumpily stumbled out of bed from his nap, around 4. By then the picnic was made and the rest of us were ready to head to the park.
I can’t decide what I love most about picnics. Could it be the fact that I don’t have to sweep up crumbs or scrape dried food off the floor? Quite possibly. Or maybe it’s the simple act of eating outside where the gleeful song of the birds provides the meal’s soundtrack and the falling pink petals of the cherry blossom perfumes the air adding a sweet scent to every bite. That could be. It could also be that my favorite meal is one in which a slice of crusty bread replaces the need for a fork.
It is for this season that my minds turns to recipes that will easily pack up, can be eaten at room temperature (or in this case, outdoor temperature), and doesn’t require the need for extraneous packing, i.e. utensils, plates, etc. Oh and it must also taste amazing.
Our first picnic food of the year is Caponata, a Sicilian eggplant dish that has as many variations as proud Sicilian grandmothers. The basic idea remains the same – it is loaded with eggplant and blended with sweet, sour, and savory flavors. A touch of cocoa and cinnamon gives this dish a rich brick color and a familiar sweetness that is unrecognizable as typical baking ingredients but welcomed as a way of soothing the heat and mellowing the sour. Most importantly Caponata fits perfectly onto slices of crusty baguette.
And with that I welcome you to picnic season (now I understand that many of you have already welcomed this warm weather season, but I ask you to celebrate with us pacific northwesterners who have just recently seen our first multiple days of sunshine in a row – we are downright giddy over here).
Caponata
2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups)
¾ cup Newman’s Own Balsamic Dressing
1 large onion, medium diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup roughly chopped golden raisins
1 teaspoon hot chili flakes (or more if you want more heat)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup water
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 baguette sliced slightly on the bias (looks prettier that way)
In a large bowl add the eggplant and ½ cup of dressing. Stir to coat and let marinate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a large saute pan caramelize the onion with 2 tbl olive oil until deep golden, about 10 minutes over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the pine nuts, chopped raisins, and chili flakes. Saute and stir to combine. The gentle heat of the chili flakes should release possibly causing a sneeze, or two. Cook that for about 3 minutes then add the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and continue to saute until the eggplant starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme, tomato paste, water, and remaining ¼ cup dressing. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Continue to cook, covered, for 15 minutes. The eggplant should give up some of it’s moisture so that it just starts to loose it’s shape. Add the salt and carefully taste for flavor.

*This post was part of an ad campaign in association with Newman’s Own. But the words and recipe are mine. I wouldn’t write about it if I didn’t love it and think that you’d love it too

Last night we made it official: It’s picnic season. Roman grumpily stumbled out of bed from his nap, around 4. By then the picnic was made and the rest of us were ready to head to the park.

I can’t decide what I love most about picnics. Could it be the fact that I don’t have to sweep up crumbs or scrape dried food off the floor? Quite possibly. Or maybe it’s the simple act of eating outside where the gleeful song of the birds provides the meal’s soundtrack and the falling pink petals of the cherry blossom perfumes the air adding a sweet scent to every bite. That could be. It could also be that my favorite meal is one in which a slice of crusty bread replaces the need for a fork.

5732795400_8f733ecbbe_b

It is for this season that my minds turns to recipes that will easily pack up, can be eaten at room temperature (or in this case, outdoor temperature), and doesn’t require the need for extraneous packing, i.e. utensils, plates, etc. Oh and it must also taste amazing.

Our first picnic food of the year is Caponata, a Sicilian eggplant dish that has as many variations as proud Sicilian grandmothers. The basic idea remains the same – it is loaded with eggplant and blended with sweet, sour, and savory flavors. A touch of cocoa and cinnamon gives this dish a rich brick color and a familiar sweetness that is unrecognizable as typical baking ingredients but welcomed as a way of soothing the heat and mellowing the sour. Most importantly Caponata fits perfectly onto slices of crusty baguette.

5733556229_e29e2000b3_b

And with that I welcome you to picnic season (now I understand that many of you have already welcomed this warm weather season, but I ask you to celebrate with us Pacific North-westerners who have just recently seen our first multiple days of sunshine in a row – we are downright giddy over here).

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Caponata

 

2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups)

¾ cup Newman’s Own Balsamic Dressing

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, medium diced

¼ cup pine nuts

¼ cup roughly chopped golden raisins

1 teaspoon hot chili flakes (or more if you want more heat)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ cup water

1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

1 baguette sliced slightly on the bias (looks prettier that way)

In a large bowl add the eggplant and ½ cup of dressing. Stir to coat and let marinate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a large saute pan caramelize the onion with 2 tbl olive oil until deep golden, about 10 minutes over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the pine nuts, chopped raisins, and chili flakes. Saute and stir to combine. The gentle heat of the chili flakes should release possibly causing a sneeze, or two. Cook that for about 3 minutes then add the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and continue to saute until the eggplant starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme, tomato paste, water, and remaining ¼ cup dressing. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Continue to cook, covered, for 15 minutes. The eggplant should give up some of it’s moisture so that it just starts to loose it’s shape. Add the salt and carefully taste for flavor.

*This post was part of an ad campaign in association with Newman’s Own. But the words and recipe are mine. I wouldn’t write about it if I didn’t love it and think that you’d love it too.

 

26 Responses to “Caponata”

  1. Amber

    Looks delicious! I love eggplant when I order it in restaurants, but I’ve never cooked it at home (it wasn’t something my family cooked – I didn’t even try it until I was 26 or 27). The whole concept of ‘sweating’ the eggplant (salting it and leaving it to dry out a bit) confuses me, and I worry about spending all that time making a bitter dish. You don’t mention it here, but I’ve seen other recipes that also don’t mention it, but then in comments people talk about it, like it was an obvious step that everyone would know.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Amber – Great question. I didn’t salt my eggplant here and I was very happy with the dish. There was enough vinegar and salt present to give it flavor and I cooked the Caponata long enough to allow the eggplant to break down a bit.

      Reply
  2. Nisrine M.

    What a delicious eggplant dish. It is a vegetable I definitely need to start cooking more and I’m loving this idea for it!

    Reply
  3. bianca

    I’m with you my friend! Us Albertans are being promised plus 26 celsius this weekend and talks of bbqs and picnics are over taking this city; and my group of friends. lets rejoice- I think summer is upon us!

    Reply
  4. Kasey

    I love picnic season and I love caponata. Oh who am I kidding – I love anything eggplant. Wish I could make it to your class!

    Reply
  5. Michelle

    Oh wow! I just made this, and it’s just incredible! I made half a batch and used it to top a small bowl full of quinoa. So good!

    Reply
  6. joey

    Love eggplants so this is just calling out to me…over here it is summer, but a little bit to hot for picnics. I would it this anywhere though!

    Reply
  7. MG Atwood

    Here’s to picnics! I’ll supply the ants. Watch out Gabe, Ash is slowly creeping in on your domain. Such a multi talented family..I love it!

    Reply
  8. snippets of thyme

    I love anything with eggplant. This recipe on crusty french bread sounds and looks like a divine meal! Congratulations on your photography workshop. I would love to attend something like this. I am down in Texas, I’ll have to see where Delancy is… the photos are beautiful.

    Reply
  9. Erbe G.

    Congratulations and thank you for sharing caponata. I like your food photography too. Close up and lively!

    Reply
  10. Janice Curran

    Ashley, this is a wonderful recipe. We had graduation today. There were five of our home schooled kids that graduated and will be heading off to college soon. We all kicked in and brought food for the celebration. Tristan and I used 6 eggplants and brought YOUR Caponata, served with a crusty Italian bread and an Italian Herb and Rosemary dipping oil. There was nothing left but crumbs…. What a hit!You always do it for us.
    Thanks again,
    Janice and Tristan
    Your biggest fans in OH.

    Reply
  11. meg

    ashley, just stumbled across your blog from another foodie site – absolutely gorgeous photos. can’t wait to try your caponata recipe – had it for the first time not long ago and have been dying to whip some up ever since. thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  12. yasmeen (wandering spice)

    this is a great take on caponata – i’m intrigued by the addition of cocoa powder. we also love ours with pine nuts and raisins. delicious.

    no surprise you’re teaching food photography – your styling is sensational!

    Reply
  13. Katie

    This looks delicious. I’m the only one of my family that likes eggplant…but, oh well! More for me. :)

    Reply

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