Sunday, August 10, 2008
the company i work for has several mottos, one of them being having a good work/life balance. funny that they should always try to promote that, seeing as everyone i work with, including me, has had a hard time separating work and life lately.
today and yesterday mark the first days in the past month where the temperature has not soared over 90 degrees. it's just been too damn hot to cook, even to whip together a salad or anything. when i'm stressed out, my stomach refuses food; and that coupled with the heat have made this a doozy of a month so far.
being French, the idea of my stomach refusing food really annoys me to no end. especially when it comes to spicy food, which i love but my stomach will absolutely not tolerate when tense. so i get all grumpy and shovel down a lot of yogurt and milk and soft, neutral (read: bland) foods, waiting for this time to pass.
i've had a fridge full of produce from the farm, including a bunch of little eggplants that were about to be on their way to God. i realized this morning that i had to do something with them, so i thought of the obvious ratatouille, however i did not have most of the other ingredients on hand for such a recipe. i sat down on the floor of my dining room in front of the shelves which groan under the weight of so many cookbooks. i looked through about ten of them and just about gave up. all the recipes i found involved ingredients i did not have on hand, and i didn't want to have to buy 20 bucks worth of other ingredients just to not throw the eggplants away.
and then, my hand rested on The Art of Simple Food, and i thought, Duh. there has got to be something in here.
my love of caponata is great. there have been countless nights when the boy was working where i'd pick up a container of it from the deli and just eat it with a spoon or half a baguette (and then feel totally bloated afterwards, but that's another story). i love all the flavors in caponata, all those wonderful mediterranean happy sun-drenched flavors. and when i flipped through the pages and found the recipe, i sighed with relief because i had every single one of the ingredients on hand. i always keep a stockpile of salty stuff around, like capers and olives. they revive a dish like crazy.
i ended up having to run to the store anyway for things that were not caponata-related, so i did this while the eggplant was cubed, salted, and draining. oh, and a confession. i used store-bought sauce.
yeah yeah. shoot me (I roll my eyes as i type this). i know. i've got tomatoes galore covering the top of the microwave, and what do i do but resort to sauce in a jar. we have a couple of jars of store-bought sauce handy in the pantry because you just never know when you need them. i know, i know, i'm such a fucking advocate of making your own, especially since it's really not hard to make a quick tomato sauce (especially Ms. Waters'), but i've someplace to be in a half hour and didn't want to dirty up the kitchen too much. i'm probably going to regret that i admitted this, but OH WELL.
Caponata (adapated from The Art of Simple Food)
about 5 or 6 of those smaller variety of eggplant
2 ribs of celery
half a Vidalia onion, diced (you could use regular white onion, but Vidalia is in abundance down here in the South right now)
1 1/2 cups of a tomato sauce
a handful of pitted green olives
2 tablespoons of drained capers
1 to 2 teaspoons of anchovy paste or 2 anchovies, drained and smooshed up
couple of tablespoons of red wine vineggar
couple of teaspoons of sugar
olive oil, for sautéing
cut the eggplant into cubes, put in a colander and season liberally with salt. let drain and go do something else for a little while.
when drained, heat oil in a large heavy pot and sauté the eggplant in batches until golden. you don't want to throw all the eggplant in at once because they won't sauté, they'll just steam, and ew. you don't want that. remove eggplant, set aside and add a bit more oil and the celery to the pot.
sauté the celery for a bit (she says until golden, but mine didnt get golden, just soft). remove and add to the eggplant.
add a bit more oil and sauté the onion until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes.
add the tomato sauce. if you're using a store-bought sauce, i wouldn't cook it for very long, maybe a minute or two, before adding the remaining ingredients. stir and cook for another 10 minutes. taste for seasoning. serve at room temperature with pita, or as i prefer to do it, slathered on a piece of baguette that has been split lengthwise. or better yet, shovel into your trap with a soup spoon.
being more Americanized than my mom would probably care for, i don't always use just olive oil for sautéing. olive oil has a low smoke point. if you're going to cook something on high heat, olive oil is not your friend. i normally use peanut oil, which we've got a squeeze bottle of ready and waiting near the stove; but today i decided to be a purist (and felt the need to redeem myself since i used store-bought sauce), so i only used olive oil. just make sure you don't cook things on too high of a heat.