I have always enjoyed Building 19. It is one of those stores you could get lost in. The "stuff" is great, but you have to search through racks to find that "diamond in the rough". My favorite is the book section, it always has some great "slightly dated" cookbooks. I was searching through the lot when I came upon The Farm to Table Cookbook - The Art of Eating Locally. As I flipped through the pages, many of the ingredients used in the recipes are fruits and vegetables we are growing in our garden. This would be a perfect cookbook to use as we start picking the fruits of our garden.
On Memorial Day weekend, we had some friends for dinner and I decided to try a few of the recipes from the cookbook. I wanted to make an appetizer and thought the Sicilian Eggplant Spread with Crostini would be perfect. It reminded me of a caponata with an edge...sweetness in the raisins, pine nuts, cinnamon and cocoa, yet an acidic balance with the balsamic vinegar.
As our guest arrived and we were getting ready to serve the appetizers, people kept asking if it was pork. I think the chunks, along with the deep brown coloring gave the impression of a barbecue sauce on meat. As we passed around the eggplant spread, people were commenting on the wonderful flavor. Just like it said, an appetizer that had amazing depth of flavor, made with home grown ingredients and didn't have a distinct eggplant flavor. I know eggplant sometimes falls into two categories - 1. "I love eggplant." or 2. "I'm not an eggplant fan." You've got to provide something that leaves them asking for more.
Whether you like eggplant or not, this is a wonderful appetizer that will highlight the produce in your garden or that of the local grower. Grab a crostini and load it with this amazing spread. You'll have a new found love for eggplant.
Sicilian Eggplant Spread with Crostini
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 additional tablespoon
1 cup of chopped onion
3 tablespoons of pine nuts
3 tablespoons of raisins
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 pound of eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes - about 4-1/2 cups
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup of tomato sauce
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf rustic French bread, sliced 1/4 inch thick, cut on the diagonal
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 1/2 cup of olive oil.
3. Add the onion, pine nuts, currants, and oregano. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
4. Reduce the heat to medium; add the garlic, eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa.
5. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant begins to brown and becomes soft around the edges, about 15 minutes.
6. Add the tomato sauce and vinegar, cover, and simmer until the eggplant is very tender, about 30 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and set aside for at least 1 hour to meld flavors.
Meanwhile, place the bread slices in a single layer on 2 baking sheets.
Bake just until the bread is crisp and golden brown around the edges, about 15 minutes.
Serve with warm Sicilian Eggplant Spread.