Still raining on Paris and I am eating alone tonight, I needed to eat something full of joy and sun, and easy to prepare. One year ago I worked a couple of nights in an italian restaurant in Saint-germain-des-prés called "Le Monteverdi". I ate there for the first time a caponata, a simple entrée composed with eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, basil, pepper, hot pepper , oignons lemon and of course, olive oil.
For two persons:
one branch of celery
half of a small hot pepper
a red pepper
garlic to taste
a bunch of fresh basil leaves
I decided to add some anchovy and capers. If I found some green olives at the store I would have put a little in the recipe too, make it to your taste.
First cut the eggplants in squares about 3 centimeters, put it in a colander with plenty of unrefined salt, and let it soak about one or two hours, then wash with plenty of water and dry with a clean towel. Put olive oil in a frying pan or a casserole ( I use a french Staub "cocotte" and parfumed olive oil I make myself) heat it until you get good olive smell, fry the eggplants on a high fire. While the eggplant are cooking cut the pepper and the celery, and cook them with the eggplants (if you do so the eggplants will be very soft and the celery and pepper will add a crunchy taste to the caponata). When nicely cooked take the vegetables out of the pan and put them in a bowl, leaving olive oil as much as you can in the casserole.
Grossly cut garlic, oignons and peeled tomatos. We want to make a good caramelized tomato sauce to mix with the egglants/pepper/celery preparation. Heat the oil, add oignons until caramelized, add garlic until colored and crunchy, then add the peeled tomatoes. On a high fire keep stiring until tomatoes completely melt with the oignons, and are a beautiful dark red. Add to the eggplants.
Cut the fresh basil ( if it is out of season or you can not find fresh basil close to your home, I do not see why you can not use dry basil. Before using I suggest you put dry basil in a part of the olive oil you are going to use, oil have such a great power to catch flavors.) . Cut anchovies, capers and green olives (only if you like). Add everything in the bowl with lemon juice. Now let it rest as long as you can before eating. If you will eat it only one or two hours after preparing, leave it on the counter. If more, I would suggest to put the caponata in the fridge, then on the counter an hour or two before eating.
For the presentation I like to use a ring. If you do not have an iron ring, you can use like me an old yoghurt or cream plastic pot, cut the bottom and you now own a beautiful profesionnal chef ring that will serve you well. I served caponata with sardines I grilled in oil, marinated pepper, capers, bread, and a small salad. Hummm!