In the late 1970s I had the privilege of assisting two visionary book-lovers (Maggie and Peter) to realize their shared dream of opening North America’s first ‘cookbook only’ bookstore. “Books for Cooks” (now The Cookbook Store was (and still is) located in the vibrant heart of Toronto, Canada — easily accessible to the city’s avid foodies, chefs and bibliophiles.
But what does this have to do with a Thermomix recipe for eggplant caponata? One of the most popular vegetarian cookbooks of that time was Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. For cooks of my generation with natural inclinations, it’s still a classic. (Since then, Katzen has been named by Health Magazine as one of “The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat.”) So when, in 1988 she produced Still Life with Menu Cookbook, it too was well received.
That book’s “Tunisian Eggplant Appetizer” is one of the recipes I’ve prepared most often in my life. It’s a sort of caponata with a twist. (Caponata is traditionally Sicilian, and Tunisia is a stone’s throw across the water so these two recipes are closely related.) Many antipasto and capanata preparations have a sweet component, but Katzen’s does not. Its texture is creamy because of the way eggplant breaks down during cooking, and sour from red wine vinegar (do not substitute!). Olives and artichoke hearts make it heavenly for those of us who like that sort of thing. If you know someone who claims not to enjoy eggplant… I suggest you offer this as a test — I’ve never met a person who didn’t become greedy after the first mouth-full. Its a long-standing favourite at parties and pot-lucks, and now it’s becoming a Thermomix recipe too!
Busting two myths with one Thermomix recipe!
- Myth #1:Everything cooked in a Thermomix comes out looking the same. I’ve read enough Thermomix reviews and blog posts by people who don’t yet own a Thermomix to know that this myth does exist. Some people suggest that everything cooked in a Thermomix comes out looking like puréed porridge. Simply not true. One of the least understood advantages of Thermomix is found in the power of its reverse function. Get friendly with REVERSE and a whole new world of non-chopped meals awaits. It’s understandable that some new Thermomix owners might not use the REVERSE function much. With the excitement of having a powerful new set of offset Solingen blades in the house, we all want to see how well they chop, grind, whip, and puree. But over time, we try new things and one day before we know it, we’re getting friendly with REVERSE. This seemingly ‘backward’ function is in fact revolutionary and futuristic. Quite “zen” really. Not only does it allow us to mix without chopping, but it allows for some very slow gentle stirring. Like a zen monk, except without the robe. REVERSE is a Thermomix function that does not hoard the limelight — it is a subtle quality. It waits quietly until you are ready to learn its power. Its one of the things that separates Thermomix from food processors and other machines. It’s one of my favourite things. I am partial to recipes that use the REVERSE function. This recipe uses a lot of REVERSE.
- Myth #2: You must sprinkle salt on eggplant to render it less bitter before cooking. Also not true. Anymore. Once upon a time, it was necessary to degorgeeggplant slices. And depending on the variety of eggplant used, it may still help to do so, but most of the world’s cultivated eggplant varieties today are not bitter as before. And this recipe does not require salting the eggplant. Not salting means less work and less time… so it’s easy and quick to prepare. Especially with the wonder of Thermomix ;-)
- 3 medium garlic cloves (use more if you love garlic)
- 1 large onion, quartered (about 160g - 200 g.)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 50 g. (1.8 oz) olive oil
- 50 g. (1.8 oz) tomato paste
- 50 g. (1.8 oz) red wine vinegar (do not substitute)
- 1 large eggplant, cubed (about 400 - 500g/14-17.6 oz) see photo above for cube size. If your cubes are too small, the result will be less chunky. We're striving for the sweet spot between creamy and chunky, so good-sized cubes works well, or a mix of larger and smaller cubes. Don't think, just do it! See note below the recipe about peeling eggplant
- 100 g (3.5 oz) olives, pitted (can use green or black)
- 150 g (5.3 oz) artichoke hearts, in quarters (can be marinated or not)
- herbs, your choice of basil, oregano, tarragon
- optional - a handful or two of loosely chopped fresh tomatoes, celery, capsicum see note below recipe
- Chop garlic 5 sec/speed 6. Add onion and chop 4 sec/speed 4.
- Push food down sides of bowl, add salt and olive oil, cook 5 min/Varoma/speed 1.
- Add eggplant cubes and cook 15 min/100°C/212ºF/REVERSE/spoon stir/CAP OFF
- Add tomato paste, vinegar, herbs and optional fresh tomatoes. Cook 3 minutes/Varoma/REVERSE/spoon speed/CAP OFF.
- Add olives and artichokes. Stir 1 minute/REVERSE/speed 1-2 (no heat) to combine. Do not eat this hot or warm. Best at room temp. Gets better with age -- really, really nice when made 1-3 days in advance. Serve with pita bread, pita chips, lightly salted corn chips, ciabatta bread chunks, or forks.
about additional ingredients: I sometimes add a bit of celery when adding the onion. Most usually, I'll add capsicum or tomatoes for added colour and texture -- this can be done when adding the tomato paste and vinegar.