Spicy Eggplant Caponata

We have a saying at House Morell.  Two things happen in life — good things, and good stories.  We invited some friends over for dinner last night, and the evening undoubtedly fell into the “good stories” category.  Because really, who would not tell the story of the time the roast was finished in the microwave?

I can explain.  I have made this particular pork roast a few times — years ago.  It involves making an olive oil, rosemary, thyme and garlic paste to spread all over the meat, and wrapping the whole thing in prosciutto before it goes in the oven… The prep is so fabulous, it gives a false sense of confidence that it would  be impossible to mess up.

Unless you are me apparently.

Such a silly mistake.  The roast I picked up was much larger that the ones I had done before, as we were feeding a bit of a crowd.  And the timing of a roast is an important element of a dinner gathering, don’t you know?   My dear husband wouldn’t ever say “I told you so” but he did eye the hunk of meat mid-afternoon, and said:  “That’s a huge piece of meat — why isn’t it in the oven yet?”   The roasting temp was so high (450 degrees), I thought it would take an hour and 20 minutes to cook. I was wrong.  About an hour into the roasting process, the house smelled amazing… I thought the roast was done, checked the (apparently defective) meat thermometer, pulled it out, and… it was still completely raw.  Oops.

Have I mentioned there is a reason I like one-pot meals that are completely finished in advance of the guests arrival?  But I digress…

Thankfully, one of our guests is a engineer, unflappable, and a culinary genius… S was called in for a consult.  After quickly assessing the situation, noting that it would likely take two hours to complete the roast in the oven, he eyed the microwave, and suggested we finish it in there.  Let me admit to you, this would have never occurred to me…  the device has only ever been used to defrost meat and pop popcorn.  But the cheese tray was running low, and feeding the crew wine to hold them over for two solid hours seemed a bad idea – especially as two of the guests were 10 and 12 years old, so into the microwave it went… and it actually worked.  Honestly, I think all that garlic and rosemary and prosciutto helped this situation significantly.

The comforting thing was, as the meat-roasting debacle was unfolding, I was pretty chill… because I knew that if even if we had no roast at all, no one would starve.  Not even close.  Because the real star of this meal was always going to be the spicy caponata served over squares of creamy cheesy rosemary polenta.


I found this caponata recipe in a Rachael Ray cookbook years ago, and absolutely love the stuff… I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years to better reflect my tastes.  It is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sweet and spicy, salty and earthy combination of Italian-style happiness.  Serve it over squares of Ina Garten’s Rosemary Polenta, and guests routinely have second and third helpings.  It makes such a huge batch that there are always leftovers… and the leftovers can be served over pasta the next day. Which extends the happiness…

And over those third helpings, after lots of stories and laughs, we brainstormed names for the Bourbon and Brown Sugar blog title du jour.  I suggested “How Not to Cook a Roast”, but much preferred our friend David’s title “Roast Recovery.”  Good times, Good stories…

Spicy Eggplant Caponata

Adapted from Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals 2

Preheat a big, deep pot over medium heat.  Add:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large purple onion, diced
  • 4 ribs celery, diced

Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion becomes translucent, then add:

  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

And cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Stir to coat all the vegetables, and cook for a minute or two.  Add:

  • 1/2 cup green olives
  • 1/2 cup black olives
  • 1/2 cup capers, with a bit of juice
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Stir to combine, then add:

  • 1 large firm eggplant, diced
  • 2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles

Stir well to combine, cover the pot and cook, 15 to 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Serve warm over Ina Garten’s Rosemary Polenta

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7 Responses to "Spicy Eggplant Caponata (a.k.a Roast Recovery)"
  1. dmsiciliano says:

    I can’t wait to try this! Sounds like good times at House Morell.

  2. Stefan says:

    Dinner was truly as delicious as it looks! I loved the depth of flavors in the Caponata, with the sweet, savory, spicy and sour components working together so well. Your roast turned out great in the end – not a hint of microwaves… Thanks for a wonderful evening!

    P.S. A wise engineer once said: “There is a solution to every problem, you just have to find it”. It applies in the kitchen as well.

  3. Anne Hallerman says:

    Hi.  I love your blog and the recipes.  I have tried a couple of times to comment on blog posts and my account settings with Word Press are apparently incorrect. So I am sending you an email to ask you my question …

    Anyway … can you share the recipe for the roast pork that you mentioned on today’s blog post?


  4. Mike Bento says:

    I’d never heard of Caponata, but now I’m hooked. That was amazing! Thanks.

  5. John--Tour guide says:

    I recently made some Caponata and enjoy eating with crackers and have also eaten warm over pasta. My mother showed me how to make the Caponata.

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