Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Batch Cooking: Eggplant Caponata

Batch cooking is a habit that I formed when I started training for my first bikini competition last year.  It's a process of cooking most of my meals for the week so that I can just grab what I need each day and go.  I can't tell you how much of a difference it makes as far as saving time during the week and staying on track with my nutrition.  Yes, it means carving out a few hours every Sunday afternoon or evening to prep and cook my food for the week but it is so worth it.

batch-cook containers, waiting to be filled...
Generally, I start by writing out all of my meals for the upcoming week so that I know what to get when food shopping.   Sometimes I get lazy and just wing it but inevitably I end up forgetting something when I do that.

My food prep primarily involves chopping up my fruit/veggies and making large batches of various dishes that will keep well for a few days.  I've been mostly grilling this summer since using the oven in my little apartment on a 90 degree day is not a smart idea... and by "I've been mostly grilling", I mean my boyfriend does it :) Finally, I divide everything up into my portion sizes and proceed to stockpile the fridge.

Now, I don't pretend to be a chef in the kitchen by any means.  I never even really liked cooking until a few years ago, when I finally started getting the hang of it... they say if you can read, you can cook but "they" apparently never tasted my earlier culinary attempts.  However, I'm gradually adding healthy dishes to my batch-cooking repertoire so that I'm not left eating chicken, tuna and rice at every meal. These are dishes that I enjoy making and actually make well... which makes cooking a lot more fun!

One of my go-to recipes is Eggplant Caponata, which is from the Giada de Laurentiis recipe, Everyday Caponata, in her book, Everyday Italian and it is DELICIOUS.  I never thought I liked eggplant until I first tried this recipe.  It is so super easy to make...

Eggplant Caponata

1/4 cup olive oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded, chopped
one 14 1/2-oz can diced tomatoes and their juices (or fresh-diced tomatoes)
3 tablespoons raisins*
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 tsp sugar**
1 tbsp drained capers*
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground pepper, or to taste
fresh basil leaves for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.
Add the celery and saute for ~2 minutes
Add eggplant and saute for ~2 minutes
Add onion and saute ~3 minutes
Add red bell pepper and saute ~5 minutes
Add diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins and oregano
Simmer over low heat until flavors blend and mixture thickens (~20 minutes)
Stir in the vinegar, sugar, capers, salt and pepper
Transfer to a bowl, season with basil and serve
(makes 6 side-dish servings)

*I'm neither a raisin nor capers fan, so I omit them when I make this... still tastes yummy!
**I used a couple packets of Truvia last time I made it and thought it tasted great.

Here's the finished project...

This pic doesn't do it justice but it's such a pretty, colorful dish!

I usually eat it with grilled chicken or just have it as a veggie side dish but it's also a great bruschetta topper if you need something easy to make for a party... and chock full of veggies!

Do you have a favorite dish to batch-cook?


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