Roasted Eggplant Caponata

This is a roasted eggplant caponata that we used as an appetizer last night when we had friends over for dinner.  It is an old Italian favorite our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother told me.  Although she had never made it, she told me that it was her sister-in-law’s specialty, so the pressure was on when I announced that I was going to make it.  There were a couple of questions about the recipe (“What, no celery?” and “She never used pine nuts.”), but the end result from Notorious B.I.G. was a huge thumbs up.  To me, that meant this eggplant recipe was a keeper.  It is one of those make ahead recipes because the longer you hold off on serving it, the more time the flavors have to mix and meld together.  You can absolutely make this a day ahead and keep it in the refrigerator until time to serve.  I served it along with some plain and multi-grain pita chips, but use your imagination.  Since it is a dip, we could have used regular chips, bagel chips, vegetables to accompany it.  It’s really up to what you are in the mood for when you serve it.  Try this recipe…the flavors are incredible together and by the empty container that was there at the end of the night, it was a hit.  As well, remember that it comes with the Notorious B.I.G.’s seal of approval.  Here’s how you make it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 large cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Place the whole eggplant on the pan, prick with a fork in several places (you don’t want an exploding eggplant in your oven) and rub with olive oil.

Roast for 50 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a knife.  Set aside to cool.

Halve the eggplant, peel, and discard the skin.  Place the eggplant, peppers and olives in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Pour into a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saute pan.  Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onion is lightly browned.  Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, and add to the eggplant mixture.

Add the parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.  Taste for seasonings and serve at room temperature.

It’s great having friends over for dinner and even better when you can serve them something new and delicious.  Our roasted eggplant caponata did just that.  It was the perfect start to a fun evening.  Well, the eggplant and a few glasses of wine were the start to a fun evening.  You get my drift.  Give it a try.  What do you like to serve as an appetizer at your dinner parties?

Friday Dance Party – Mumford & Sons ‘The Cave’

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

We’re getting ready here on Glen Road for a big 4th of July party.  125 people are coming and we just keep inviting more people.  It’s crazy.  Everything is set for a good time.  Plenty of food-the BBQ kind outside on the grill and the Italian kind inside the house.  The pool is heated to a warm temperature.  Since it is forecasted to be 90 degrees outside, it is important that the pool be kept at a constant 80 degrees, right?  Speaking of the temperature, we have had a large tent put up in our back yard so anyone not wanting the sun beating down on them can sit under it.  The tent itself could host a circus.  At night, it has lights in it so the party can go on late into the night.  Oh, and did I mention the booze?  Needless to say, there are bottles everywhere.  All the makings of a great 4th of July!  Now all we need is the music.  Music is always a tough one because at a party like we are having, you need to please people from 5 to 90 years old.  However, this song will absolutely be played because it is one of our favorites this month.  It’s Mumford & Sons ‘The Cave’.  It’s one of those songs that is a cross between several genres of music.  Great strings.  The best part of it, we have absolutely no idea what the lyrics mean.  Internet surfing says everything from a song about recovering from addiction, getting over depression to getting over a failed relationship.  Sounds great for a party, right?  Whatever it means, its our dance number for this week.  So turn the speakers up and celebrate another week of living.  Happy 4th of July and enjoy your dance.  You deserve it.  What are your plans for the 4th of July?

Italian Braciola From Our Own Notorious B.I.G.

This is baked ziti with a piece of Italian braciola on the side.  It was made by our own Notorious B.I.G.–our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother.  Yes, she is back and making another one of her all-time favorites.  Most Sunday dinners always include her famous sauce and meatballs/sausage, but she doesn’t always include braciola.  Her braciola takes thin slices of sirloin, adds a seasoned breadcrumb mixture along with cheese, egg and sausage and then they are rolled and secured with a wooden toothpick or cooking twine.  After lightly browning them in olive oil, they are added into her gravy (sauce) to cook along with the meatballs and sausage.  When I first met B.I.G., it was one of the first things she made and served to me.  I loved it that very first time and all the times since then during the thirteen years I have known her.  There is something so delicious about this little Italian meat dumpling that stands its own against the big pile of macaroni that always sits right beside it.  I really don’t need the pasta at all.  I could be very happy with just the braciola.  I have always wanted to learn how to make it and I have finally gotten my wish.  So here is B.I.G.’s recipe for Italian braciola–one of the best I’ve ever had.  It all starts with the same bread crumb mixture she uses in her other recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 8 – 10 thin slices of braciola meat or sirloin steak (our local butcher cuts sirloin for us)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese, plus more for shredding
  • 4 thin slices of Italian sopressata, chopped (nothing is bad with a little sopressata on it)
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped Italian parsley (I am told to tell you that it must be Italian–do not use curly)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 Italian sausage (about 6 – 8 inches long), hot or mild (whatever you prefer) cooked in olive oil
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

Begin by preparing the Italian sausage link and the hard-boiled eggs and let them cool until they can be handled.  While they are cooling, combine the garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, sopressata, parsley, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Mix all ingredients until combined with each other.  Lay out meat slices and sprinkle bread crumb mixture over the top of each slice.

Next, take the cooled sausage and remove the skin.  Chop it into small bite-sized pieces and spread them on top of the meat slices as well.

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Do the same with the boiled eggs.  Chop the eggs into small bite-size pieces and spread them on top of the meat slices.

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Finish by grating some additional parmesan cheese on the finished meat slices.

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Carefully roll each meat slice and secure with a wooden toothpick.  You may need more than one toothpick to ensure that the inside stuffing does not come out during browning and then simmering in the gravy.

Heat the olive oil.  When hot, add each braciola and lightly brown the meat.  Continue turning until they are lightly browned on all sides.  At this point, you can continue cooking if you would like until the braciola are completely cooked and eat them on their own.  Most of the time, you will put them into your prepared gravy (sauce) after lightly browning them and let them continue cooking in the simmering gravy (sauce) until they are completely cooked through.

I have been to some of the finest Italian restaurants in the world and have quit ordering braciola because nothing compares to the braciola made by B.I.G.  I tend to find that many times the restaurants where I have ordered it bring it out with little taste.  Maybe they are scared to serve it to large numbers with too much seasoning in it or our family just loves large amounts of flavor coming from garlic, sopressata, egg, cheese and sausage?  Who knows!  However, these braciola pack a lot of flavor and taste.  I can see them being eaten on their own with a salad or a side of broccoli rabe or as part of the traditional Italian dinner with macaroni and gravy.  Whatever way you choose, you are in for a treat.  Man, our Notorious B.I.G. knows how to cook.  Did you learn to cook on your own or with the help of a relative like our Notorious B.I.G.?