I have a confession. When I decided to make eggplant caponata for a dinner party last week, I was really hoping there would be leftovers. I’ve made this a few times before (it’s a Mario Batali recipe), and it might be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. Sweet, spicy, and savory – this dish has got it going on. It makes raisin-haters embrace the golden little morsels and eggplant-virgins into believers. Most people spoon some caponata onto a baguette and call it a day. But I can’t get enough of this stuff, so I’ve come up with some other uses. It’s full of Mediterranean flavors, so I’ve used it as a chutney of sorts with roasted leg of lamb. As I was sprinkling in the seasonings last time and smelling the wonderful aromas come together, I dreamed up a vision of sauteed ground turkey mixed with leftover caponata and stuffed into bright green summer zucchini. Plus, because the caponata contains cocoa powder, this dish could fit right into Le Petite Boulanger’s They Go Really Well Together event. This round of the event challenges bloggers to create a dish combining meat and chocolate. At first, my only inspiration for this combination involved mole-based, Mexican-style dishes. I still have yet to make a mole, and I’d love to, but I’m happy to have created something a little different. The cocoa here is subtle – but combined with the cinnamon, balsamic vinegar, and raisins creates a sweet background to tangy tomato sauce and earthy pine nuts. Creamy goat cheese is a natural compliment to all of these flavors, and mild ground turkey provided some texture while still allowing the spices in the dish to shine. The wonderful thing is, I am not the only one who loved this – my fiance declared it absolutely fantastic!
2 medium zucchini, cut in half length wise, and scooped out
1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup diced onion
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup eggplant caponata (recipe below)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1-2 ounces crumbles goat cheese
Preheat oven to 350F. Saute ground turkey and onions over medium heat until meat is cooked through and onions are soft. Season with salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Meanwhile, place zucchini halves in a microwavable casserole dish, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 3 minutes or until soft; they should be about three-quarters of the way cooked through (since they will cook more in the oven).
Add caponata and tomato sauce to turkey; stir to combine and heat through. Spoon mixture into zucchini halves, top with goat cheese, and bake for about 15 minutes.
Eggplant Caponata, courtesy of Mario Batali, foodnetwork.com
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
large Spanish onion, chopped in 1/2-inch dice
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons currants (I use golden raisins)
1 tablespoon hot chili flakes, plus extra for garnish*
2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup basic tomato sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 sprigs mint, chopped
In a large 12 to 14-inch saute pan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, pine nuts, currants and chili flakes and saute for 4 to 5 minutes until softened.
Add the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the thyme, tomato sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, garnish with mint and chili flakes.
*Note: I believe this is meant to say 1 tsp, not 1tbsp. I’ve made it with a full tablespoon and it seemed way too spicy, overpowering the other flavors (And this is coming from people who can handle heat!). Since then, I’ve cut it down to 1tsp, and even then it’s still quite noticeable, so if you are sensitive to spice, you might want to cut back even more.