What do you do when its fall and you’re feeling like meatballs or pasta and don’t want to get out that spiralizer (or like me you don’t own one)? You want something chunky to set up on your plate because you’re pairing it with lamb or beef meatballs or some winter squash. Well, caponata is your answer! This one has the traditional eggplant, but two kinds of mushrooms (swap out with sweet peppers or zucchini if you don’t like mushrooms)– roasted crimini and a quick hot sauté of Shiitake on the stove top (available fresh at Trader Joes in little brown boxes for $1.80 and $3.00).
It’s a wonderful satisfying meal way down on the glycemic index and easy to make extras for later meals (pairs well in the freezer with those trays of meatballs!) And, this is the perfect dish for everyone when your vegan friends come to dinner. Just use our pesto or buy one without cheese. Festive, rustic and practical–it can be served at room temperature with warm squash. Pesto is yummy on that, too! (Serve extra on the table.)
Preheat over to 400 degrees.
Place 2 Tbsp olive oil in 12” cast iron pan. Dice one large red and one large white onion into 1/2 -1 inch size pieces. Turn heat to medium and add 2 Tbsp olive oil and then the onions. Begin sauté, but turn off heat when they are partially cooked and set aside.
Wipe off excess dirt from crimini mushrooms with paper towel slice into 1/4 inch pieces, trimming the bottom 1/8 inch from the stems. Place in medium-size bowl. Slice fennel bulb horizontally into 1/3 -1/2 inch slices and trim tough core out of the bottoms rounds. Cut round in half or quarters (1 inch pieces) and place in bowl with mushrooms. Toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and spread out on parchment-lined sheet pan. Place in heated oven and roast for 1/2 hour or until desired doneness. Remove from oven and salt to taste.
Chop celery into chunks and slice shiitake mushrooms into 1/4 inch pieces and briefly sauté in medium-sized pan (I used 10” cast iron) with 1-2 tsp olive oil. Turn off heat and add sliced yellow and/or orange cherry tomatoes to celery and mushrooms and toss together; then let cool on sheet pan with roasted mushrooms and fennel.
Blot eggplant dry with paper towels and add to pan with onions and turn heat onto medium. Add an additional 2 Tbsp olive oil and begin sauté of eggplant until it soft and lightly browned. While browning, cut tomatoes into chunks (quarters if two inch tomatoes) and cherry tomatoes in half. Add cut tomatoes and 1-2 cups tomato sauce (with or without the onions) to the eggplant/onion mixture and continue cooking mixture down for 10 minutes or until desired consistency. Turn off heat. Add 3 Tbsp capers and juice, 3 Tbsp pesto, 1/3- 1/2 cup drained Kalamata olives, and 3 pressed or minced cloves of very fresh garlic to the sauce. Stir to incorporate.
Remove long central stem from one or two bunches of lacinato kale and bunch leaves together. Make horizontal cuts about 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. Add to the eggplant mixture.
Reheat and cook a few minutes longer, if necessary, until desired consistency. Turn off heat and remove from stove. Dish into serving pan. Top with vegetables on sheet pan but do not incorporate. Garnish with fresh basil (if you have a few leaves) and serve extra pesto and chopped Italian parsley in small bowls on the side. Dish can be served room temperature or warm.