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Catastrophe Kitchen | Cannellini Eggplant

By Salongo Wendland

I’m calling this recipe Cannellini Eggplant not just because it uses Cannellini beans– but also because the word “Cannellini” in Italian means uncountable, and that is how many eggplant recipes I tried in my attempts to get a good one. I’m not joking, I threw out three of them because they were COMPLETELY inedible. Making this recipe, I vowed that if it didn’t turn out well, I’d be composing a harangue on eggplant instead of a recipe– starting with the eggplant emoji and ending with a photo of these eggplant fritters in the trash.

Failed eggplant fritters.

But you’ll just have to wait for that one, because I DID IT!! I CONQUERED THAT SMUG PURPLE BASTARD.

I did it by following one of my no-fail recipe guidelines: veggies, beans, herbs, fat, and acid. You can switch out the veggies and beans pretty easily, depending on what you have on hand. And it’s actually NOT horrible for you, it’s pretty darn healthy.  It takes about an hour, but only 15 minutes or so of that are hands-on time. It’s mostly about letting the oven do all the work for you, while you drink wine and wait for it. Hot dang, sign me up.

This iteration comes together with smoky roasted eggplant, sweetly pungent roast garlic, melted tomatoes, and bright capers. It’s heart-warming and heart-healthy, and so easy you can literally drink an entire bottle of wine while cooking it and it will still turn out fine. I may or may not be speaking from experience, but I will say it pairs well with a Sauv Blanc.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 medium-sized eggplant
  • 2 bulbs garlic
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • a few branches of fresh thyme or about 1 t dried thyme
  • leaves of one branch rosemary or 1 t dried rosemary
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (and zest, optional)
  • About 1/3 C olive oil, divided
  • 2 T capers
  • Optional, for serving: chopped parsley, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest

Preheat oven to 400°F

Prep the eggplant first. Peel it and cut into 1/2″ cubes, then toss the cubes with some salt in a colander and set a timer for 30 minutes. This will leach out some of the bitterness in the eggplant and keep it from absorbing so much oil in cooking.

Next, using a sharp knife, cut the topknot off the bulb in a way that exposes all of the cloves– you should need to take off 1/4 to 1/2″. Place the bulbs on a large piece of foil, then cover the tops with olive oil, letting it soak into the bulb. Pull the foil up and squeeze it together to make a parcel, then put them in the oven, cut side up. They need about 20 minutes longer in the oven than the eggplant, and they should have that head start in by the time your eggplant timer goes off.

If you did get that Sauv Blanc, go ahead and open it up while you wait. Mmmmmm, wine.

When your eggplant timer goes off, rinse the eggplant under cool water and pat the cubes dry with towels. Toss them in a bowl with 1 T olive oil and thyme leaves, then scatter across one side of a baking sheet. Set your timer for 20 minutes, then toss your tomatoes with 1 T of oil and the rosemary.

This was the point I cleaned everything up; also prime time for another glass of wine!

When 20 minutes are up, flip the eggplant and add the tomatoes to the pan. Roast everything together for 20 minutes more. Glass #3? If you insist…

When your timer goes off this time, you’ll take everything out of the oven. Put the eggplant, tomatoes, capers, beans, and lemon juice in a bowl.  Allow the garlic to cool for a few minutes, then squeeze the bulbs out into the bowl (I used an oven mitt to protect my hand and did it right away because I have zero patience. You could wait for it to cool and pick them out one at a time for something that looks nicer, if LOOKS ARE THAT IMPORTANT TO YOU UGH YOU ARE SO SUPERFICIAL).

Give everything a good mix, add pepper and salt to taste. If you’d like more acid, add a splash of your wine, a bit more juice, or some lemon zest. Just be cautious; I added a whole lemon’s worth of juice AND zest before tasting it, and that was total overkill. It was the lemoniest thing I have ever tasted. BUT I STILL ATE IT, is how good this is. I also added a splash of oil to the bowl before mixing, which kind of muddied the plate. It’d be better to drizzle a touch on when you serve it.

So serve it drizzled with olive oil and/or balsamic, some parsley, if you’d like, and some bread to scoop it up! Oh, and a nice Sauv Blanc…. if you have any left.

These flavors marry together perfectly. Sweet, tart, deep, bright, hearty, yet light.  I didn’t even use a spoon, I just piled it onto the bread and ate it that way, because I am a barbarian. It may not be the prettiest dish, but it will take your tastebuds on an all-expenses-paid trip to Flavor Town. AND it reheats like a dream– get set for the best lunch EVER tomorrow!!

Now you can pat yourself on the back. Eggplant’s got nothing on YOU.

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