Fresh From the Garden: Eggplant Puttanesca
By Cheryl Forberg
With summer gardens at their peak, most of us are always looking for a new twist for serving fresh eggplants and tomatoes. How about trying Eggplant Puttanesca? Created in Naples, Italy, Puttanesca sauce is a beloved recipe made with tomatoes, garlic, capers, chili peppers, olives and olive oil. This rendition has the addition of creamy roasted eggplant and sweet tender onions. While traditionally served over spaghetti, this version would also be a great omelet filling, pizza topping, or served as antipasto.
Yield: 3 quarts
2 medium globe eggplant (yield 3-4 cups chopped and grilled)
2 pounds cherry tomatoes (or 1 can (2 lbs. 3 oz) peeled Italian plum tomatoes, crushed but not drained (yield about 8 cups)
2 medium Melissa’s Perfect Sweet Onions grilled (yield 3 ½ cups chopped)
1/4 cup drained capers
1/2 cup pitted niçoise or calamata olives, roughly chopped
8-10 anchovies’ fillets, chopped (add additional oil if desired, I added 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or Sicilian chili paste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh Italian oregano, chopped
Garnish: Italian parsley
Prepare the eggplant for stovetop roasting or grilling: Place eggplants directly on grill rack or over gas burner at medium heat. Grill for about 18 minutes, turning frequently to cook evenly. Remove from heat when eggplant has become very soft. Set roasted eggplant aside to cool.
For oven roasting: Position rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a 15 x 10-inch baking sheet with olive oil spray. Place eggplant on prepared baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, turning eggplant three or four times to roast evenly. Remove from oven when eggplant becomes soft. When cool enough to handle, peel, and discard eggplant skin. Remove most of the seeds and cut eggplant into chunks. There will be 3 to 4 cups. Add eggplant to large mixing bowl.
To prepare the tomatoes lightly coat two 15 x 10-inch baking sheets with olive oil. Place one pound of cherry tomatoes on each tray. Depending on the size of your grill, you’ll probably have to grill one pan at a time. Place the baking sheet on grill rack at medium heat. Grill for about 6 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the tomatoes are just starting to burst and color. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Add to the eggplant.
To prepare the onions peel onions and slice horizontally ¾ inch thick. Insert toothpick in each slice to hold together. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on grill rack over medium heat. Grill each side for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned and softened. Remove from grill and allow to cool. Roughly chop the onions and add to the eggplant mixture.
Add capers, olives, anchovies, and seasonings to the eggplant mixture and mix to combine. Season to taste if desired. Garnish with chiffonade of Italian parsley.