Last week we went camping in Maine. The kids romped through the woods, we scrambled over seaside rocks, and of course, ate lots of food prepared over an outdoor fire. We were so ready for that last bit. No adjustment necessary from our current routine.
As amazing as that adventure was, the highlight of my week may have been arriving at my parent’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. They had a kitchen! With a stove! And five burners! And cabinets fully stocked with pots and pans of all shapes and sizes! A true respite from our kitchen-less existence. I couldn’t resist getting right to work.
I have loved every tomato salad I’ve made this summer, the juices dripping down my fingers, the heady smell of fresh tomatoes virtually seeping into my pores. Eggplants of all size and color have been brushed with olive oil, charred, and enjoyed simply. But with the tools of a full kitchen at my disposal, I was ready to take those core summer CSA ingredients to the next level: caponata.
I enlisted Jonathan to cook the eggplants on the grill. The smaller FairyTale eggplants I sliced in half lengthwise; the larger Bell I cut into thick slices. All were brushed lightly with olive oil, then grilled until just soft. I cut the charred eggplants into smaller pieces, then added these to a pan where sliced garlic and onion were sauteeing in olive oil.
Into this mix I added several cupfulls of diced farm tomatoes in a variety of colors. I simmered the mixture until the tomatoes began releasing their juices, then added a few tablespoons of capers, a pinch of white sugar, and about a tablespoons of red wine vinegar. After another 5-10 minutes to meld flavors, I added chopped parsley, freshly cut from my parents’ herb garden (another casualty of our renovation – no garden this year).
You could stop at this stage, cool the caponata, refrigerate and enjoy it the next day spread on lightly toasted bread. The overnight rest helps the flavors to marinate. If I had anchovies available, I would’ve diced one or two into the mixture up front (with the garlic and onion). The depth from that briny addition definitely would benefit from the overnight wait.
With my audience of three kids, I thought pasta would be the better direction. I added just-cooked penne (al dente) to the caponata, cooking another minute to combine. Dished into bowls with diced fresh mozzarella, a perfect summer marriage, with all guests happy at the feast.