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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nature's Bounty: Caponata Recipe

I don't have a huge spot for gardening - the backyard is not terribly large and there is a wonderful spot for entertaining along with the much needed grass! But there is a small little plot that has become my herb/vegetable garden. To be honest, I love planting everything at the start of the season but by mid-July I truly hate to weed, but do reluctantly, and by late August I can't wait to pull everything out of the ground...despite the fact that I still have a huge crop growing.

In anticipation of a vacation, I tried to harvest what I had and then began to fret over what to do with it all. I've got about 2 pounds of cherry tomatoes that are perfectly ripe. A dish made with them surely will show up on tomorrow night's dinner menu. And I made a batch of pesto sauce with the abundant basil. I will gather tons of herbs together tomorrow and make a butter that I can freeze for the winter months. I already made rosemary oil...and I do not care to dry the herbs. Oh more ideas will spring to mind, I'm sure.

That left me with about 8 ripe full size tomatoes, 4 Itchiban eggplant and 4 or 5 green peppers. I began thinking about a stew-like dish that could morph into caponata. It smells and looks delicious with so many colors and flavors. I highly recommend this even if the wares did not come from your own garden. You can use this as a great sauce over a hearty pasta or it can be used as a dip with toasted bread. You could also use it, simply, as a side dish with rosemary-garlic lamb chops.

Garden Caponata
1 onion, finely sliced and diced
1/4 cup Rosemary Oil + 1 Tbsp.
3 large garlic, minced
4 cups Itchiban eggplant, diced into 1 1/2" pieces (about 3 medium/large)
2 small or 1 large green pepper, diced
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 large fresh tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme, removed from stem
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh basil finely chopped
2 tsp. capers
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped
pinch of salt and pepper

In a large, heavy, pot warm 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat and saute onions about 5 minutes, stirring well. Add garlic and saute another 5 minutes, lowering heat if garlic looks like it will burn at all. Then add eggplant and saute another 5 minutes, stirring well. Add peppers and all remaining ingredients. Stir well and lower to low-simmer and cook, uncovered, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring well. Do not let mixture boil at any time.

Spoon about 3/4 of the mixture into a blender pitcher and pulse 5-6 times until blended very well and smooth. Mix in remaining caponata and serve over pasta or as a side dish. Alternatively, cool over night and serve as a dip with toasted bread.

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