I’ve had a complicated relationship with eggplant over the years. The giant-peanut shaped vegetable never was a favorite, even as I gradually became more convinced of its charms, seeing it transformed in a variety of different dishes: the vegetable-laden French ratotouille (also a convenient receptable for too many summer zucchinis), Middle Eastern baba ghanoush with its smoky flavor, or the rich, cheese-oozing and lasagne-resembling moussaka.
I approached the idea of eggplant in my own kitchen with trepidation. I wasn’t quite sure if there was a way to get the flesh to lose its bitterness that didn’t involved copious amounts of olive oil and breadcrumbs in what was my most successful attempt to date – eggplant parmesan. For a true Pole, nothing can make a dish more successful than breadcrumbs in some shape or form (dishes a la polonaise came to be known so due to their butter-breadcrumb sauces).
In fact, it was my desire to finally tackle the eggplant issue that almost kept me from meeting my husband. I had fallen in love with Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Jerusalem” and was determined to try my hand at charring an eggplant instead of braving the cold wind to attend this birthday party where I barely knew anyone. Thankfully, a friend’s motivational text message propelled me out of my introvert’s dream corner and off to the party, and we all know what happened next.
Still, eggplant remained unconquered. Until yesterday…
It was the third day of the new year, and the fridge was quite bare after 10 work-free days of indulging in cooking and baking. A lone eggplant stared out at me from the glass shelves, imploring to be used before its smooth purple skin shriveled. I didn’t have many ingredients on hand, but what is google for if not such dire straits?
A few minutes later, I had gathered garlic, onion, olive oil, and canned tomatoes from my pantry, and capers from my fridge, and I was ready to attempt caponata. I can’t recall if I’ve ever had this Sicilian eggplant dish, so I can’t compare, but the end result was highly pleasing.
I followed this recipe, adding twice the amount of canned tomatoes (why skimp on a good thing!) and throwing in a celery stalk with the onions, garlic and eggplant, for good measure. I cooked that mixture over lower heat for longer than suggested, and used a mixture of thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano for Italian seasoning (unfortunately didn’t have the fresh basil on hand).
The mixture simmered away happily on my stovetop
Served warm, over a bed of brown rice (best cooking method here), and topped with two fried eggs, it was a fitting, filling, stomach-warming way for that last eggplant to go.
I think eggplant and I have declared a truce.