October 31, 2010
I like to play this game with my students at lunch. I roam around from table to table, peeking into their lunchboxes or checking out their cafeteria trays to see what they’re eating. My rule? Your lunch has to consist of three distinct colors or it’s not a meal.
Dessert items & drinks don’t count toward the three, and artificial coloring of any kind is also verboten. You have to consider color families when assessing—mashed potatoes and a roll are both basically beige, so they don’t count as two separate things. As I’m sure you can imagine, many of my kids fail “the lunch test” on a regular basis…but then again, sometimes, so do I!
Last year, my students began to police each other—and me—at lunch. “Ms. Mehra, lunch check!” they’d call out, peeking into the contents of my Tupperware to ensure that I wasn’t being a total hypocrite that day. (Few things make teenagers as angry as adult hypocrisy; it’s something we have in common.) This caponata, which is easy to throw together and makes a satisfying lunch or appetizer, is also terribly colorful, ensuring that you’ll have your bases well-covered when the food police come-a-callin’.
GRILLED VEGETABLE CAPONATA
adapted from Steven Raichlen’s The Barbecue! Bible
1 large or 2 medium-sized eggplant, cut into ½-inch rounds
4 medium tomatoes, diced or a good handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green bell peppers, seeded & cut into flat strips
2 yellow onions, quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded & cut into flat strips
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin (save a few fronds!)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 T balsamic vinegar
2 T green or black olives, pitted & chopped
1 T capers
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa (yes, really)
salt & pepper
Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, & onions with olive oil, then cook on an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan. Set aside to cool a bit while you combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.
When the grilled vegetables are cool enough to handle, chop roughly and add to the bowl. Drizzle in olive oil generously & season with salt and pepper. The caponata is best if it sits for at least an hour before serving and will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for a week.
I like to serve the caponata with thick slices of crusty Italian bread, but it also tastes delicious tossed with pasta.