I’m a little eggplant–obsessed. The hubby and I keep talking about eating healthier by eating more veggies and less meat, and one of these days, we’ll try out a plant-based diet (really, we will). In the meantime, I’m trying to find veggies that leave my voracious appetite satisfied and not feeling empty and dead inside just a few short hours later.
The other day I happened upon some really gorgeous, dry-aged steaks from Hampstead Butcher & Providore. I’d bought just a couple smaller steaks, thinking that Step 1 of trying to eat less meat means actually buying less of it. The steak became the accompaniment to this zesty eggplant caponata.
Eggplant caponata is, at its core, a hearty stew of eggplant, tomatoes, capers, pine nuts and lots and lots of basil. The sponginess of the eggplant absorbs tons of earthy olive oil, and a splash of red wine vinegar adds a zesty tang to the whole concoction. I’ve also read, although I haven’t yet tried, it as a great appetizer when spread on top of slices of crusty baguette.
On the day that I made steak and eggplant caponata, I also made a bright green chimichurri sauce (using a recipe from David Guas that I’ve posted here) and drizzled it on top of the steak for added freshness and zip. I found that the eggplant caponata was hearty enough that I felt like I could eat less steak and not be completely and utterly despondent about it afterwards.
This steak and eggplant caponata dish made for a great spring meal. It was so much lighter and fresher than I was expecting out of a red meat meal, and I also liked that this could be a recipe used for a Whole30 or paleo diet, too (i.e., the kind of diet where you can’t eat grains, dairy, refined sugar or beans).
The best part of the caponata is that it can be served at room temperature, which makes it a great make-ahead dish if you’re making this recipe for company. I could totally see guests flitting in and out of my kitchen, grabbing little pecks at a large, welcoming dish of caponata on crostini. Plus, the dish develops more flavor the longer it sits, so I found that leftovers the next day were delicious when spread into an ovenproof baking dish and topped with slices of fresh mozzarella before being baked in an oven at 350 degrees.
Actually, what does it say about me that I’m constantly thinking about my next dinner party? Am I a dinner party addict?
Oof. I think I might be.
My recipe for caponata was inspired by this BBC Good Food recipe
- 1.5 pounds sirloin or ribeye steak, fat trimmed and cut into 4 equal pieces
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large eggplants, cut into ½ to ¾ inch cubes (try to make them evenly sized pieces)
- 2 shallots, minced
- 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tsp capers
- ¼ cup raisin
- 4 celery sticks, chopped
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- handful toasted pine nuts and basil leaves
- Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and season with pepper (no salt yet). Let come to room temperature while you're making the caponata.
- Make the caponata: pour the ½ cup olive oil into a large saucepan or casserole and heat it gently over medium heat.
- Add the eggplant and cook for a good 15-20 mins until the eggplant is soft. Scoop the aubergines out of the pan and onto the plate.
- There should still be some olive oil left in the pan (if not, drizzle a little more into the pan to keep the shallots that you're about to add from sticking). Add the shallots and cook for about 5 mins until they are soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook slowly until they're soft and mushy.
- Return the eggplant to the pan along with the capers, raisins, celery and vinegar. Season well and cover. Cook over a low heat for 40 mins, until all the vegetables are soft. Stir gently every once in awhile.
- While the caponata is simmering, prep your steaks. Heat a heavy, ovenproof pan over high heat and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Rub the remaining olive oil over the steaks and season with salt. Add the steaks to the pan and sear on one side (don't move the steak around; to get a really great, even brown crust, just let it sit in the pan for about 3 minutes. The steak will release itself once a nice brown crust has formed). Flip the steak over and sear for another 3 minutes. Take the temperature of the steak -- if it's under the desired temp (145 degrees F for medium rare), stick the entire pan into the oven and let it cook for an additional 5-6 minutes until the desired internal temp is reached.
- Remove the steaks from the pan and tent them with foil. Let the steaks rest on a plate for about 10 minutes before slicing.
- Remove the caponata from heat and taste to make sure the veggies are tender. Finely slice the basil and stir in the pinenuts. Serve wth the steaks.