Wednesday, September 3, 2008

End of Summer Bounty: Eggplant Appetizer

I feel a bit melancholy this time of year. Summer is almost over and I hate to see it go.

September signifies that it's time to say goodbye to my favorite season. Boo hoo.

The days are getting shorter, and the nights feel cooler. Our garden is on auto pilot, everything is crazy and wild and we really don't care.

It is my favorite month to go to the beach, be it the Hamptons or the Jersey shore.
The crowds are gone and the kids have gone back to school and you can get some great off season rates on rentals or hotels. It is still nice enough to get a late summer tan and the ocean is still warm enough to swim (as if I ever even get my feet wet!).

Our alfresco dinners are numbered these days, so I had better make the most of them.
I make this wonderful eggplant appetizer with all the inexpensive red peppers and eggplants that are available at the markets this time of year (another sign that summer is almost produce!). I bought 8 large tomatoes at the farmers' market today for only $2. The guy said they were "seconds". They tasted like "firsts" to me.

I made this for a Labor Day party this past weekend and it made enough to feed a crowd.

I make it differently each time, so you don't need to follow the recipe exactly.
It's kind of like a ratatouille and a caponata combined. It is fantastic served with crostini or pita chips.
You can use the leftovers for omelet fillings or over cold pasta. Addictive!
(low fat & healthy too!).

You can add more of something or less of an ingredient, whatever you have.
Here is how I made it today:

Eggplant Appetizer:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1 large red pepper, roughly cut up
1 yellow onion, sliced
the remainder of a red onion (that I had in the fridge), sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
3 thin purple eggplants (Italian), cubed (leave skin on)
1 striped, pretty Japanese eggplant (found it at the farmers' market today, too pretty to pass up), cubed
4 cloves garlic, sliced thick
2 large, ripe Jersey tomatoes, cut into big chunks

(you will also need: handful of chopped kalamata olives, capers and tomato paste after the vegetables are roasted).

Mix all of your cut up vegetables (you can add more peppers, any color or more squash, whatever you like, don't be afraid to try your own concoction), in a large bowl.
Add 2 tbsp kosher salt, 2 tbsp herbs de Provence, and pour a liberal amount of olive oil over veggies. Mix together.
Lay vegetables on a cookie sheet and roast at 400 for about 45-50 minutes, till they are nice and brown.
The tomatoes will make some juice, and the vegetables will shrink when roasted.

Remove from oven, and to the vegetables add 2 tbsp. of tomato paste, a handful of chopped kalamata olives and 2 tbsp of capers.

Best made the day before. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.