Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers, and Basil

This particular dish was inspired by a lunch I ate at a small café on a sunny afternoon in Amalfi, Italy. It was tender eggplant pieces bathed in a tomato sauce rich in olive oil topped with olives and capers and fresh basil. I knew immediately that it was something that I wanted to replicate. So when we returned to Calitri from Amalfi, I decided to try it out.  Even if it didn’t taste exactly like the lunch at the café, I knew it would be delicious. And it was.
The photo of the eggplant is the actual meal I made in our adorable apartment in Calitri, Italy. The plate that it is on is also special, as it is  handmade and hand painted right within the tiny town. Calitri is known for it's ceramic artisans and I think the style of art is beautiful. The view you see below is actually the view from our bedroom window in the Italian apartment. I photographed all the food we made on the window sill. Now every time I make this dish back home, I will be reminded of this special place.
Don’t skimp on the olive oil in this. I know it seems like a lot, but it adds flavor and ensures that the eggplant stays really moist. And I should also mention that this tastes even better the next day because the flavors get to meld together.

 Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers and Basil
The tiny oven that we used in Italy had to be lit with a match and there was no way to tell what the temperature was at.  So I’m going to assume that it was around 450 degrees. But really, just check on and toss the eggplant regularly to prevent burning, and cook it until it’s soft and tender.

1 large eggplant, cut into 2 inch pieces (no need to peel the eggplant)
20 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 small onion, halved and chopped very thinly
1 tablespoon capers
15 pitted kalamata olives, cut lengthwise
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh basil (about 10 large leaves or more if you like)
sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (see the note above). Put the cut up eggplant in a large strainer and sprinkle it with lots of sea salt. Let sit over a bowl for about 30 minutes. Then, rinse the eggplant and pat it dry with a clean dish towel (or paper towels). Now, transfer the eggplant to a 9"x13" glass baking dish. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the quartered cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced onion, garlic, capers, olives, tomato paste, and olive oil. Stir well to combine. 

3. Pour this mixture over the eggplant and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft and very tender. Toss the eggplant a few times throughout the roasting process to ensure even cooking and to prevent sticking.

4. When the eggplant is cooked, remove from the oven, transfer to a bowl, and stir in chopped fresh basil. If you think it needs it, add some more extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with more basil and serve. As mentioned above, this dish tastes even better when eaten the next day, so it is wonderful to make in advance.

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  1. What beautiful looking food and easy to follow recipes! I'm glad i found you, I'm going to link to you from my blog :)

  2. Thank you so much Em! So glad you enjoy it and thanks so much for reading.

  3. Nice to see this here. You explained in a detailed way.