Mario's dish is so good, it just might change the minds of even the biggest eggplant haters of them all.
- Eggplant Caponata
- 1/2 cup Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Spanish Onion, chopped in 1/2-inch dice
- 2 ribs Celery, 1/2-inch diced
- 3 tablespoons Pine Nuts
- 3 tablespoons Currants
- 1 tablespoon Hot chili flakes, plus extra for garnish
- 2 medium Eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (yields 4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons Fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 cup Basic tomato sauce (recipe below)
- 2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
- Freshly ground pepper
- 5 sprigs Mint, chopped
- 2 Zucchini Blossoms, chiffonade, if available
- 1 Baguette, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds & toasted on grill or in oven
- Tomato Sauce
- 1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Spanish Onion, 1/4 inch diced
- 4 Garlic Cloves, peeled & thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons Fresh Thyme leaves, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1/2 medium Carrot, finely grated
- Two 28 ounce cans peeled Whole Tomatoes, crushed by hand & juices reserved
- For the Eggplant Caponata:
- Heat the Olive Oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the Onions, Celery, Pine Nuts, Currants, and Chile Flakes. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes, and then add the Eggplant, Sugar, Cinnamon, and Cocoa. Cook for 5 minutes and then add the Thyme, Tomato Sauce, and Red Wine Vinegar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer, cooking until it comes together, just under 5 minutes. Allow Caponata to cool completely and serve with Crostini. Garnish with Mint and Zucchini Blossoms if available.
- For the Tomato Sauce:
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the Olive Oil, and once hot, add the Onion and Garlic, cooking until golden brown.
- Add the Thyme, Carrot, and cook until the Carrot is very soft, and then add the Tomatoes and all of their juice. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce thickens. Season to taste with Salt.