Nanny (my mother in law) came for Christmas baring jars and jars of fresh marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives, sun dried tomatoes with garlic and a ton of Eggplant Caponata (sometimes called Eggplant appetizer). Eggplant Caponata is a thick Italian eggplant stew/spread. It's naturally vegan and is perfect served at room temperature with lots of crusty bread. My kids go wild for it. You can find it canned or jarred in the Italian sections of most grocery stores. However it's much cheaper to make your own. Caponata is the perfect addition to Antipasto platters (especially vegan ones.)
(recipe originally found in Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, minced
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
1 medium-sized red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup black olives, drained pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, cover, and cook until softened.Add the eggplant, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant begins to soften, about 5 more minutes.
2. Transfer the mixture to a 4-quart slow cooker. Add the bell pepper, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. season with salt and pepper. cover and cook on low until the vegetables are soft but still hold some shape. (in the slow cooker about 6 hours.)
3. When the vegetables are cooked, stir in the olives, capers and parsley. Taste, adjust seasonings. Transfer the caponata to a bowl and let cool. Serve at room temperature. If not serving right away cover and refrigerate until needed.
I've made this recipe without a slow cooker. I cooked it all in one large pot, instead of transferring the sauteed onion, celery and eggplant to a slow cooker just lower the temperature to medium and continue the recipe as listed. Stir often. Caponata is much better the next day. I recommend always preparing it a day in advance
Nanny also very graciously occupied the kids with gingerbread baking and decorating while Mike and I slipped away for some last minute Christmas shopping.
Mike planned Christmas dinner Cajun style. He made a vegan jambalaya, gumbo and (my favorite) Cajun Seitan. As it turns out I'm not a gumbo person, and maybe not a jambalaya person either. I am definitely a Cajun seitan person though.
All of our Christmas decorations are getting packed up as I type. Usually it makes me sad to stuff our wooden soldiers into their plastic sarcophagus for another year. Not so much this time though. Maybe I'm still in a food induced stupor, but this time I'm glad to be packing in all the holiday hoopla. I'd rather focus on the new year ahead of us.