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Recipe of the week: Eggplant caponata

Eggplant’s earthiness is best as a complement to stronger flavors.

How strange is eggplant? said L.V. Anderson in Slate.com. Undercooked, it’s actually “pretty vile.” But cooked until it’s mush?—“now we’re talking.” Eggplant’s earthiness is best as a complement to stronger flavors, as in this traditional Sicilian spread.

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 2 eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped green olives
  • 1⁄3 cup raisins
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 bunch parsley, stemmed and chopped
  • juice of one lemon

Put 1½ inches oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat. In batches, add eggplant and fry, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season with salt.

Strain oil into a glass container. Return ¼ cup oil to pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly caramelized, 3 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium. Add next seven ingredients and ¼ cup water. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes break down, 15 to 20 minutes. Lightly toast pine nuts in large skillet over medium heat, 3 to 5 minutes.

Turn off heat under tomato mixture. Stir in pine nuts, parsley, lemon juice, and eggplant. Cool to room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.

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