With Eggplant, Celery and Red Bell Pepper

Guys don’t really think this way, but women do.  We plan, we strategize, we accessorize.  We want to look and feel good; we wake up early the day of an event to get a good workout in so we feel fit and fabulous; we have clothes for winter, mid-winter, fatter days, skinnier days, professional Barbie and semi-casual Skipper.  We try to do it all and look fantastic while we do it, everyday, except for Sunday.  I think Sunday’s are for being a little ugly, because honey, give yourself a break!  We are doing this all week, we have a packed schedule and a great outfit to wear on Saturday night, but then go to a party, eat like you’d never usually eat because that’s all there is and then feel like garbage on Sunday.   Get ahead of the curve(s) and take matters into your own hands!  It’s a given there will be cookies, cakes and chips, but these are not sustainable food groups.  I hate going home from a party and feeling like shit.  I want my memory to be positive, not that I ate too many sweets and woke up nauseous the next day.

During the winter, our bodies want something warm, hearty and satisfying.  Caponata is a really nice dish for entertaining because of its versatility.  Not only is it simply stewed vegetables, of which you can add or subtract to fit your tastes, but it’s a good opportunity to use up those odds and ends in your fridge.  It’s also inexpensive and easily made in advance – all things I love.  Plus if you have left-over’s, it’s great all week long.  Serve with a freshly sliced baguette or crackers.

I got this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis in the cookbook, Everyday Italian.  The dishes in this book are all flavorful and colorful, and most of all, her directions are simple but specific.  I’m really a huge fan of her cooking style and flavor profiles.  So, obviously I can’t take credit for this recipe as I made it very much the way she recommends, BUT, I decreased the amount of olive oil and used brown sugar instead of white.  Other than that, my hat goes off to Giada, once again.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium eggplant (or 2 zucchini), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 (14.5oz) can of diced tomatoes – no salt added
3 tablespoons raisins
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
Fresh basil or parsley to garnish
1/2 cup water

In a large skillet or pot, heat oil over medium until it begins to ripple in the pan.  Add the celery and sauté until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggplant and sauté 5 minutes.  The eggplant will soak up all the moisture, so add water as needed to keep the eggplant slightly moist but still allowing it to brown.  Season with salt/pepper (1/4 teaspoon of each); add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes; add the red pepper and cook another 5 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes (including juices), raisins and oregano.  Season with salt/pepper (1/4 teaspoon of each).  Bring to a boil, then drop the temp to medium-low and cook until the mixture thickens, stirring often for about 20 minutes.  Stir in the vinegar, sugar and capers; cook another 5-10 minutes, until the caponata is thick but the vegetables still have some shape.  Season with salt/pepper to taste.  Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with fresh basil or parsley and serve alongside a fresh baguette.