Aired December 17, 2007
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from the stems
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup Sicilian green olives, chopped
1/4 cup capers
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Juice of 2 lemons, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 baguette, sliced into rounds and toasted
Parmigiano Reggiano to freshly grate on top
Preheat oven to 400F.
Place whole eggplants on a baking sheet and roast about 20 minutes, until soft.
While the eggplants are roasting, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, fennel and thyme to the pan and cook until they are sweet and brown, about 15 minutes. Then add the garlic, salt, freshly ground black pepper, capers and tomato paste. Keep stirring everything around while the tomato paste cooks. After about 2 minutes the tomato paste will begin to caramelize and smell sweet. Add half the lemon juice, scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan then remove pan from heat and set aside.
Once the eggplant is out of the oven let it cool enough so you can pick it up with your hand. Remove the skin and the majority of the seeds from the center. Place the flesh in a food processor or blender along with some salt, freshly ground black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and a splash of lemon juice. While blending pour in about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil until it becomes a smooth, thick puree.
To assemble, lay the toasted baguette rounds out on a platter. Spoon a teaspoon-sized dollop of the eggplant puree in the center of each toast, then top with a sprinkling of the sauted mixture. Grate some Parmigiano Reggiano over the top of the bite-sized caponata. Serve hot or at room temperature. (The ingredients can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and just warmed through. Each toast should be assembled shortly before you serve them so they don't get soggy.)