Grilled Eggplant Caponata

I’m not sure exactly how to categorize this dish.  It’s not really a salad- too juicy and no green or grain to bind it together.  It’s not really a salsa- too substantial.  But let’s throw semantics aside and say this: whatever we want to call it, it is tasty and it is something that would be great on bruschetta, in a sandwich, on a pizza (which I am sorely tempted to do), or just eaten with a fork, as I did the other day for a highly satisfactory grad school lunch. 

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One of my resolutions, not associated with 2012 per se but just with trying to get my act together and be more of a grown up, it to be better at using up the odds and ends in my fridge instead of tossing them when they inevitably rot.  (Any tips are welcome; I get the sense some of my fellow contributors are real pros at this).  I had some eggplant, tomato, and olive that needed to make their way into something, and I had some roasted garlic on hand, too. 

 A little Googling and a little MacGyvering, and I had this play on pantry caponata- not all the ingredients caponata would usually have, but close enough.  Even with winter tomatoes, I liked it a lot and can’t wait to make it with more flavorful tomatoes when they are in season this summer.  With an assist from my awesome Panini maker for the grilled eggplant, this dish came together in minutes.  (If you don’t have a Panini machine, George Foreman, or grill pan, you could just use two skillets to press the eggplant on the stovetop.)

 Grilled Eggplant with Caponata

Inspired, as usual, by Smitten Kitchen

 Ingredients:

(I’ve listed my amounts here, but as veggies and olives can vary in size, what’s more important is that your ratio of tomato to olive to eggplant is roughly the same)

  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced thin into ½ in thick rounds
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic (I popped some cloves in their skins into a 400F oven with my brussel sprouts for 30 min or so)
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped (maybe ½ cup in volume?)
  • 6 olives (I used black), diced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (I found this was essential to the flavor; if you think you can hack it, be generous with your pinch!)

 Place eggplants on grill and get ‘em nice and browned.  (Depending on your grilling method, you may need to brush them with oil.  I grilled them dry.)

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To make the caponata: in a bowl, mash and whisk the roasted garlic with the oil and red wine vinegar.  Add tomatoes and their juice, olives, and pepper flakes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  If your olives are not super salty, you may want to add salt but mine provided enough on their own.

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Dice the grilled eggplant and combine with the caponata.  Cleaning out the crisper drawer can sometimes taste surprisingly good.

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When Brussels Met Salad.

My thought process as I contemplated dinner was that I wanted to roast something, mostly because turning my oven on makes my kitchen warmer.   I’ve been making roasted Brussels sprouts maybe once a week this whole winter, and making them the exact same way every time, because a) I’m boring like that and b) maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and salt are completely a unbeatable trifecta so why bother with anything else.  But rather than eating them directly off the baking pan with the fork, as I sometimes do, I classed it up and made a more substantial offering.

(Look Aya, it’s the salad tongs you gave me!  Thanks!)

What I liked about this salad was that the glaze for the sprouts doubled as a dressing, and the caramelized Brussels tasted great with the tartness of the cranberry and the salty tang of the cheese.  It’s a little different than the run of the mill salad, and it elevates roasted veggies to a level above where they normally get to in my kitchen.  I think would make a great salad course for a dinner party.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Cranberries, Blue Cheese, and Maple Vinaigrette

serves 2 large portions or 4 small ones

  • 15 sprouts
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • salad greens
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles (preferable the ripest and stinkiest variety you can find)

Preheat oven to 400F, oil a baking pan (no glass, per Aya’s last post).  Halve the sprouts and spread on the sheet.  I also roasted some garlic cloves because if you’re turning on the oven anyway  it’s never bad to have some roasted garlic around.

Roast sprouts for 30-40 minutes until browned and crispy.  Scoop into a bowl and toss with syrup, olive oil, vinegar, and salt.

Prepare rest of the salad by tossing greens, cheese, and cranberries in another bowl.

Finally, toss sprouts into salad.  Make sure the remaining maple vinegar salty goodness coats the greens as the dressing. Enjoy!