- 1/2 cup virgin olive oil
- 1 large Spanish onion, chopped in 1/2-inch dice
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons currants
- 1 tablespoon hot chili flakes, plus extra for garnish
- 2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/4 cup basic tomato sauce, recipe follows
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 5 sprigs mint, chopped
- 1 baguette, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds and toasted on grill or in oven
BASIC TOMATO SAUCE:
In a large 12 to 14-inch saute pan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, pine nuts, currants and chili flakes and saute for 4 to 5 minutes until softened.
Add the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the thyme, tomato sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, garnish with mint and chili flakes. Serve the caponata spooned on crostini or in middle of table with crostini on side to allow guests to help themselves.
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.
Yield: 4 cups