Eggplant and Artichoke Stew Alla Pantesca

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1 medium-size eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 quarts olive oil or olive pomace oil for frying
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-size onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 large artichoke hearts (preferably from fresh artichokes), coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons capers (preferably salted Pantelleria capers), drained, rinsed, and chopped if large
4 large imported Sicilian (Paterno) olives, pitted and chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons golden raisins, softened in tepid water to cover for 15 minutes and drained
1 tablespoon water
1 dried chili
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely diced caciocavallo or provolone cheese
6 large fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Lay the eggplant cubes on some paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Leave them to drain of their bitter juices for 30 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels.

2. Meanwhile, in a casserole or skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat, then cook the onion until translucent, stirring, about 6 minutes. Raise the heat to high and add the tomatoes, garlic, and wine and cook until most of the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes. While the tomato and wine mixture is cooking, preheat the frying oil in a deep-fryer or an 8-inch saucepan fitted with a basket insert to 370 F. Reduce the heat to low under the casserole and add the artichoke hearts, capers, olives, raisins, water, and chili and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

3. Deep-fry the eggplant cubes until golden brown, turning once, about 8 minutes in all. Drain on paper towels and add to the tomato sauce, mixing carefully by lifting and folding. Cook for 1 minute over medium-high heat, then add the diced cheese and mint and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat. Serve warm or at room temperature as a vegetable side dish, pasta topping, or as a main-course stew.

Makes 4 servings.

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