Note: We had hoped to find the really great Hudson Valley beets at the Tuxedo Farm Market last week, but were told it was still too early. Somehow eggplants from Ramsey’s Farm came to substitute for them and Caroline thought to adapt Andres Barrera’s caponata recipe as cool summer beat-the-heat food. This is greatly simplified from Barrera’s excellent-seeming original – fewer vegetables, no cheese (a good idea, I think), molasses (all we had and a real addition) instead of sugar, and black oil-cured Moroccan olives instead of purply kalamatas. We’ve eaten this as an accompaniment to grilled sausage, pan-fried flounder roes and on its own and I think we’ll be preparing it a lot. It’s delicious, easy and extremely pretty to look at.
Caponata Caroline (adapted from Andres Barrera)
1. 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2. 1 tablespoon molasses
3. 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4. 1 or 2 eggplants (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch dice
5. Salt and freshly ground pepper
6. 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
7. 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
8. 2 fresh red ripe tomatoes, cut into ½ inch dice
9. 1 cup pitted oil-cured (Moroccan) olives
10. 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
11. 2 tablespoons chopped oregano
1. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar with the sugar and boil over moderately high heat until reduced to 3 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Add a little more vinegar if the reduced amount seems too meager.
2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the diced eggplant, onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl. Wipe out the skillet.
3. Add the tomatoes, olives, parsley, oregano and balsamic syrup to the bowl and fold gently. Season the caponata with salt and pepper. Transfer to a clean bowl.
The caponata can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.