It's been a busy travel time for me so I haven't had much time to cook, but I am finally slowing down for the Thanksgiving holiday. It's my favorite holiday as it involves lots of food! It's going to be a scaled down meal this year as it is just my sons and me, but we are still very traditional. The only big change is that my boys have decided that they really don't like turkey so we are roasting a chicken instead. But all of our other traditional fixin's will all be present - cornbread dressing, potatoes, creamed leeks, green beans with mushrooms, brussel sprout and bacon salad and pie. My only chance to add something different is with an appetizer. Now, we eat a Thanksgiving dinner in the late afternoon so I wanted to offer something to be eaten by my boys while they watch the Liverpool soccer game and I am cooking - American football will have to wait until after that!
So, I have made Caponata, an Italian eggplant relish that includes lots of interesting ingredients like green olives, pine nuts, celery, tomatoes and a bit of vinegar and sugar. I got the ingredient list from a half Sicilian friend in Italy, but I had to figure out the proportions and this version was the successful result. It goes wonderfully on crackers or toasted slices of baguette. And, like many foods that are a melange of ingredients, it is much better after the flavor marries so make it the day or two before. It is really a delightful sweet and sour mix of interesting textures. It's great for a party too!
5 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 small eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds) diced, salted, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
1 medium chopped onion
3 stalks of celery chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup pitted green olives chopped
3 Tablespoons drained capers chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons or more sugar (some vinegars are very sour and require more sugar)
3 Tablespoons raisins
3 Tablespoons pine nuts toasted
2 cups chopped tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat 3 Tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add eggplant, stirring for about 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned and soft. Remove to a bowl and let cool. Add remaining olive oil and add celery, tomatoes and onion and cook until the onions and tomatoes are soft. Add olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, raisins and cook covered for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add eggplant back in, stir in the pine nuts and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and check sweetness level, adding more sugar if necessary. Serve with crackers or Bruschetta - slices of baguette drizzled with olive oil, broiled and scraped with a raw garlic clove.
Five Element Analysis
Eggplants and pine nuts belong to the Water Element, whereas the celery, olives, capers and vinegar contribute the Wood Element and so do the crackers. Tomatoes add the Fire Element and the raisins and sugar bring in the Earth Element. The onions bring in just a bit of the Metal Element and so does the raw garlic on the Bruschetta, but in order to create more balance, serving this dish with some cheese alongside - I particularly like it with goat cheese - adds more Metal and creates a perfect balance.