Top | Basics
(recipe, Caroline Cummins)
This sweet-sour eggplant sauce — it's basically a caponata — is adapted from one used in the signature dish at the Walla Walla restaurant Saffron. There, it's used to sauce braised beef cheeks, but you can also use it as a dip for toast or a pasta sauce. The saba/vincotto garnish is optional, but if you feel like splurging (vincotto is cheaper than saba), it makes for a lovely dark, sweet, tangy touch.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large or 2 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 tsp. red-pepper flakes
- 1 red onion, diced
- 4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp. fresh minced ginger
- 2 Tbsp. capers
- 2 tsp. honey
- ⅓ cup golden raisins (regular raisins are fine, but the golden look prettier)
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped (canned are fine)
- 1 cup orange juice, or a blend of ⅓ cup lemon juice with ⅔ cup orange juice or other sweet citrusy juices
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- Saba or vincotto, for drizzling; if unavailable, use balsamic vinegar (see Note)
- Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the cubed eggplant and stir to coat with the oil; sauté until the eggplant is starting to brown. Cover, lower the heat to medium, and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the eggplant has softened.
- Remove the cover. Add the red-pepper flakes, onion, garlic, and ginger; sauté for a minute or two, until fragrant. Add the capers, honey, raisins, tomatoes, and juice, and bring to a simmer. Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce has reduced to a thick sauce, about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Just before serving, stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, basil, and scallions. Serve over sliced braised beef or pasta, drizzled with saba, vincotto, or more balsamic vinegar.
Sweet and thick, both saba and vincotto are made from grape must. They're cheaper than high-end balsamic vinegars, but can be hard to find; try gourmet food shops, such as Portland's Pastaworks. You can also reduce a cheaper balsamic vinegar into a thicker sauce, if you like.
You can make this dish ahead of time; just hold off on the basil and scallions until you're ready to reheat it and serve it.