MEATLESS MONDAY: GRILL-ROASTED EGGPLANT CAPONA OVER ROASTED POTATOES

Just look at these beauties!  I almost don’t want to cook them; I’d rather cradle and caress them, they’re so perfectly smooth and ripe.  But cook them I will.  (Re-reading this, I’m anticipating a couple of responses:  some will be thinking I really should get out more; others will be right there with me.)

I’ve waxed on and on about the pleasures of produce and market offerings in both Italy and France last summer.  Whenever we went into a market to pick up cooking ingredients, picnic items, deodorant (long story for another time), we would wander the aisles in a state of wonder.  Olive oils, salts, cheeses, pastas – all would practically bring us to our knees.  And who knew cream came in so many forms!  I recently wrote about the amazing Sicilian Pestos; well, jewel-like jars of bruschetta toppings were just as jaw-dropping.  Spreading them on breads with cheese and salumi for a portable lunch wasn’t satisfying enough.  Nor was dipping into them with rustic crocante (as soon as I can bear to turn on the oven, I’ll get back to attempting to recreate their shattery-tender texture) before dinner in the evening.  We finally took to whisking them into our vinaigrettes for evenings’ sumptuous salads.

As fields are delivering up sun-warmed abundance, each trip to the farmers market these days brings happy memories flooding back and simultaneously sets the idea wheel spinning.  When I spied these gorgeous eggplants, I knew instantly what I was going to do with them.  This combination brings together flavors from some of our Italian favorites.  Yes, the grill will be making another appearance.

ROASTED EGGPLANT CAPONATA

Makes about 2 cups  Leftovers freeze perfectly

2 small or 1 large eggplant

Olive oil

Sea or kosher salt and pepper

2 small tomatoes, or 1 large

4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

2 small onions, or 1 large, 1/2″ dice

Olive oil

Sea or kosher salt and pepper

8-ounce jar of artichoke hearts packed in olive oil

1 dried pepper of moderate heat, rehydrated

2 anchovies

1 teaspoon capers

1/4 cup Kalamata or Niçoise olives

1 small handful Italian parsley, chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 ounces olive oil

Sea or kosher salt and pepper

  1. Light your fire or start your grill.  Make the fire a big one – it has a lot of work to do.
  2. Trim the stem ends off the eggplants, then slice them in half the long way.  Brush the cut sides with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.  When the fire is ready, lay the eggplants cut side down on the grate.  Close the lid, and damp down the top and bottom vents about half way.  Roast the eggplants until you can pierce them very easily with a sharp knife, about 5-7 minutes minutes.  Remove them from the grill and place them on a plate or a baking sheet.
  3. While the eggplants are grilling, set your dried pepper to rehydrate.  I used a mulatto, one of the peppers I received from Marx Foods.  It is described as having a mild heat level along with a chocolate/licorice flavor, both of which are perfectly accurate.  You could also use a puya chile, or half of a poblano.  I’m going for the deep tones you get from milder chiles, as opposed to the bright ones from hotter chiles.  Break the chile apart with your hands, and put it in a small bowl.  Fill it with boiling water to cover, and set a plate over the bowl to retain the heat.
  4. Open the bottom vent all the way, and set your grill pan on the grate to warm.  When you hear sizzle upon dropping a piece of onion or tomato onto it, add the tomato-garlic-onion mixture.  Use a pair of long tongs – the fire will be hot – to move the vegetables around gently as they warm through and begin to caramelize.  They’ll pick up deep flavors from drippings hitting hot coals.  When the onions have taken on some good color, remove the pan from the grill, and return the vegetables to the bowl in which you tossed them with oil.
  5. Now it’s time to roast the potatoes.

GRILL-ROASTED POTATOES

I like to use little gold-fleshed potatoes.  They’re tender as can be when cooked, and need only to be quartered or halved.

Aluminum foil

2 to 3 petite golden potatoes per person

1 or 2 cloves of garlic per person, smashed and peeled

Sea or kosher salt and pepper

Olive oil

  1. Tear off a sheet of foil about 12″ x 12″ for each person
  2. Wash and quarter the potatoes.  Set the potatoes in the center of each piece of foil.  Add the garlic to each, and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle each with an ounce or so of olive oil.  Seal the packets by rolling the sides together over the center and folding in the ends several times.  Set them on the grill grate and close the lid.  Damp down the top and bottom vents about half way.  Allow potatoes to cook until you can pierce them easily through the top of the foil with a sharp knife.  Remove from the fire.

TO SERVE

All of the potatoes

Caponata

Parmesan cheese, as much as you like

Chiffonade of basil leaves

While the potatoes are roasting, prepare the caponata.

By this time, you should be able to comfortably hold the eggplant halves in one hand while you use a spoon to scoop the pulp with the other.  Drop the pulp into the bowl of a food processor.  Add the tomato-onion mixture.  Add the artichoke hearts and their oil, and drain the chile through a strainer and add it.  Add the anchovies, capers, lemon zest and juice.  Combine the ingredients by pressing the Pulse button.  You don’t want to purée this; rather, you just want to break the large pieces into smaller ones.  You definitely want to leave a good texture.  Finally, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Open each packet and arrange potatoes, garlic and oil on plates.  Top with spoonfuls of caponata.  Garnish with with some grated Parmesan cheese and chiffonade of basil leaves.

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About thesolitarycook

I'm a chef, a cook, a teacher, a reader, a writer, a bike-rider, a dog- and cat-woman
This entry was posted in Condiments, Entrées, Meatless Monday, RECIPES, Side Dishes, Vegan, Vegetarian. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to MEATLESS MONDAY: GRILL-ROASTED EGGPLANT CAPONA OVER ROASTED POTATOES

  1. Caponata is one of my favorites and I love that you grilled the eggplant I never thought of that and I can imagine the depth of flavor when you do. This sounds amazing. Love over the potatoes.

  2. PatO says:

    This sounds wonderful – some of my favorite ingredients!! I am without a kitchen for now so I am tied to the grill – and simple meals. This will be perfect.

  3. Bevi says:

    This is so fantastic and looks like a perfect meatless dish. We grill until we have to wear down jackets outside, so there’s still time for me to try this.

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