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Eggplant Caponata

A lot of my "kitchen ingenuity" can be attributed to the question - "What do I already have in my refrigerator that I should use up?"

Asking this sparks ideas for recipes & meals that I wouldn't have necessarily thought to make out of the blue, but the desire to reduce food waste & use what I have on hand gives me that motivation.

In last night's case, I knew I had eggplant & an open jar of tomato sauce in my refrigerator, so my mind went to Eggplant Caponata - a traditional Sicilian dish made with eggplants, tomatoes, olives & capers.

I modified the traditional recipe slightly based on what I had, and was able to put this super satisfying & hearty dish together in about thirty minutes.

Here's the recipe:

Eggplant Caponata

yields ~4 cups sauce

2 medium eggplants

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (for heat, if desired)

3 cups tomato sauce (your favorite jarred brand)

1/2 cup water

1 cup shredded kale (I used dino kale)

1 tablespoon capers (optional)

3 tablespoon sliced olives (optional)1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or other herbs (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut the eggplant into small, bite-sized cubes (about 2 in diameter).

Toss with about 2 tablespoons of oil (I like to use avocado oil, since it has a neutral flavor & is good for high heat cooking), salt, pepper & 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder. Roast in the oven, tossing once midway, for about 25 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender & lightly browned.

Meanwhile, start your sauce by caramelizing your onions, which adds a deep, rich flavor to the dish. Start with a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed saute pan, on medium-high heat, and add in your onions. Stir the onions occasionally & let them cook for about six minutes, in which time some caramelization should occur. You can stop here, or if you've got the time, keep caramelizing the onions for another five minutes, until they're darker in color (more color = more flavor).

Next, add the minced garlic, dried thyme, garlic powder, and chili flakes (if using). Cook for a minute or so, before adding in the tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water. Allow the mixture to come up to a simmer, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The extra water is added so that the sauce doesn't get too thick as it cooks.

After ten minutes, add in the shredded kale & the cooked eggplant, and let cook for another five minutes. This will allow the eggplant to soak up all of the delicious flavors you've created in the sauce. Then, turn off the heat and add in your capers & olives, if using, and the red wine vinegar. The vinegar adds acidity to the sauce which helps cut through the richness & sweetness of the tomatoes.

Season to taste with salt & pepper, add in your fresh herbs (if using), and serve your Eggplant Caponata with toasted bread or on top of pasta for a delicious, quick dinner.

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