Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happily ever after.

Ever since last summer's Meatless Week, I've been much more into eggplant. It's finally come into its own this month, and the Greenmarket is stuffed with all kinds - the big, almost-black glossy kind, the white, actually egg-shaped kind, and the tiny, adorable fairy tale kind.

The latter is my favorite, in part because it's small enough to be single serving-friendly, and in part because I find them to be a bit sweeter than their larger counterparts. And while I'd love to tell you about all the myriad ways I've cooked them up, I have to admit that I've been largely addicted to one particular method, a sort of cross between caponata and ratatouille.

It's so easy, you guys, and it's great as a side or a main, or as a pasta sauce. I mainly use it as a bed for cold, sliced pork chop, though sometimes I just eat it straight from the bowl. When I do that, my favorite thing to do is top the whole with a dollop of mascarpone. It makes everything more festive.

Because the eggplants are so small and sweet, you don't need to salt them - they're not watery, and they're not better. And no matter how you eat my eggplant mish-mash, though, one thing is for sure: this recipe could make an eggplant eater out of just about anyone.

Queenie's Summertime Eggplant Saute

1 small or 1/2 large white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Olive oil
5-6 fairy tale eggplants, about one pound, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large red or orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2-3 small tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tbs. sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbs. capers, rinsed, drained and dried
1/3 cup mixed chopped herbs (I like basil, parsley and chives)

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the onions and turn the heat down a bit if they are browning too quickly. Saute for a few minutes until just transluscent, then add the garlic. Saute for a few more minutes until the garlic is tender and fragrant.

Add the eggplant to the pan. Salt and pepper somewhat generously and cook the eggplant, stirring frequently, until it has browned slightly. Add the bell pepper and cook for a few minutes, until the pepper begins to turn tender. Add the tomatoes, sherry vinegar, red pepper flakes, capers and half the fresh herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until the whole thing has broken down a bit and turned into a thick stew.

Taste and adjust for seasoning, then remove the stew from the heat. Stir in the remaining herbs and serve immediately.

This works well when made ahead; just let it come to room temperature, then cover tightly and store in the fridge for up to three days. Re-warm gently on the stove before serving.

Serves four as a side, two as a main.

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