There was a serious outbreak at the zoo the other day…
A serious outbreak of lunch envy.
While other parents were at the mercy of the questionable Safari Cafe offerings or doling out bologna sandwiches and fruit snacks from a sad little cooler, our group dined on Roasted Eggplant Caponata with baguette crostini.
Yup, crostini with the camels. That’s how I roll.
If you’re asking ‘why make something like Roasted Eggplant Caponata for something as informal as a playgroup trip to the zoo?’ I must counter with: ‘why not?’ If you live to be 80 years old, you have only 87,600 meals to eat throughout your lifetime- why would you waste one on a bologna sandwich and fruit snacks from a sad little cooler? And theoretically, if you eat all the foods you love, won’t you be a happier pup with more endorphins and fewer stress hormones, and therefore live beyond 80 years? I mean, that’s just biology.
Let’s talk about what makes this caponata worthy of one of the 87,600+. It’s easy, summery, DIVINE, and can be eaten with little baguette slices as utensils, which is exactly what we did. The little bit of crushed red pepper gives it heat, and the buttery pine nuts folded into the chunky-thick vegetable mixture make it a little flavor party in your mouth (not unlike the mouse that we saw the cobra eating in the reptile house, but that’s another story for another time). It gets better the longer it sits, which means that by the time you retrieve your child from running to the baboon exhibit for the fourth time, it’s even tastier than when you retrieved your child from the baboon exhibit the first time. It’s also great warm, cold, and at room temperature, which is very handy for the same aforementioned reason.
Another food that can cause major food envy is a juicy steak, but I don’t recommend bringing a juicy steak to the zoo for the obvious reason that you, yourself, may end up as a juicy steak if the white tiger wants to ‘share.’
If eating this stuff straight up doesn’t float your boat, you could probably mix it into pasta, use it as filling for an omelet, or slap it in between two pieces of bread with some brie and make the panini to end all panini. Uh-oh, I think I may have just released the secret of what they serve in Heaven.
In the words of the Godfather, ‘leave the bologna, take the caponata.’ Food envy for all!
- 1 large eggplant (approx 1½ lbs)
- Olive oil
- 4 oz jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
- ½ c large green olives, pitted and chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 T minced parsley
- 2 T pine nuts, toasted
- 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 T drained capers
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1 T red wine vinegar
- ½ t kosher salt (more or less to taste)
- ½ t freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Place the whole eggplant on the pan, prick with a fork in several places, and rub with olive oil. Roast for 45-50 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a knife. Set aside to cool.
- Halve the eggplant, peel and discard the skin. Place the eggplant, peppers, and olives in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped. Pour into a mixing bowl.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 T olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onion is lightly browned. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, and add to the eggplant mixture. Add the parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop. Taste for seasoning and serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.