Sweet and Sour Eggplant with Crostini

1 eggplant unpeeled, 1/2-inch dice
salt
2 zucchini cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 small spanish onion cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 celery heart trimmed and cut crosswise into slices 1/2 inch thick
1 cup tomato-basil sauce *
1 cup small green olives pitted
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons capers rinsed and drained
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 t0 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
crostini
1 small slender baguette,
cut on the diagonal into slices 1/4 inch thick

In a colander, toss the diced eggplant with a generous amount of salt. Place the colander in a sink or over another bowl and let drain for 1 hour. Rinse the eggplant with cold running water to remove the salt and bitter juices, then pat dry with paper towels or roll up in a kitchen towel.

In a small frying pan over medium-high heat, pour in olive oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. When hot but not smoking, add the eggplant in several batches; do not crowd the pan. Fry, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant to a double thickness of paper towels to drain. Fry the zucchini in the same pan in the same manner, adding more oil as needed to measure 1/2 inch deep; transfer the zucchini to paper towels to drain. In a nonaluminum bowl, combine the eggplant and zucchini and set aside.


In a frying pan over medium heat, warm the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and celery and sauté until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato-basil sauce, olives, garlic and capers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, 5-8 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup vinegar and simmer, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves completely. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Taste and add more sugar and vinegar as necessary to achieve a good sweet-sour balance. Add the sauce mixture to the eggplant and zucchini and toss together gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or for up to 3 days before serving.


When ready to serve, bring the eggplant mixture to room temperature. To make the crostini, preheat an oven to 400°F. Place the baguette slices in a large bowl and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Toss the slices until the oil is evenly distributed (they should be slightly moistened, not coated). Lay the slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake, turning once, until lightly golden and crisp, 5-7 minutes. Watch carefully, as they burn easily.


Spoon the eggplant mixture onto individual plates or a platter and surround with the warm crostini.

NOTES : This is the queen of the Italian tradition of agrodolce, or sweet-and-sour dishes. Commonly served as an antipasto, the savory combination of eggplant, zucchini and red onion with the mild, pale yellow innermost stalks of a celery bunch is set off by the piquant flavors of capers and green olives.


* For the Tomato-Basil sauce use tomato
sauce with some fresh basil added.



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