Saturday, May 2, 2015

Lighten Up : Poached Eggs with Caponata and Polenta

And now for something completely different...

Yes, even your intrepid blogger needs to lighten up from time to time. I firmly believe in the "all things in moderation" approach: paleo, gluten free, raw vegan diets are definitely not the thing for me... I love food way too much, and I never want to lose that. The problem (or my problem, anyway) is when you don't practice the "moderation" part; it becomes far too easy to slip from "curvaceous"  to "cowabunga".  The solution (again, this is just for me; I don't presume to know your life !) is to lean more towards the lighter side of the "all things" approach. And so, a new feature on this blog: food that is definitely worthy of the "Culinary Orgasm" title, but won't leave you lying on the couch gasping for air.

Eggs in custard cups are something I'm rather fond of; there's a fantastic recipe here for Baked Eggs with Creamy Leeks that I really love (end of one of my Irish entries : A Full Irish Breakfast, Culinary Orgasm Style ...this recipe can also easily be lightened by substituting pan spray for butter and fat free half-and-half for heavy cream. No one will be the wiser; part of the magic of leeks). Whilst perusing my fridge this morning my eye lit upon some leftover caponata and polenta; this, I thought, would be the perfect first entry for my new feature. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day ! And it was perfect; indulgent and satisfying enough for a weekend breakfast, but light enough not to weigh me down for the rest of the day. (Bad pun not intended !)

Caponata  (a Sicilian eggplant dish, sort of a sweet and sour relish) is something that's readily available in stores, along with tubes of ready-made polenta. Look for both in the refrigerated section, usually near where you'd find hummus and/or fresh pastas (in my usual supermarket that's actually the same place). Caponata can also sometimes be found in jars, though the fresh kind is usually better. Both caponata and polenta can also easily be made at home; the caponata I used here is a lighter, less sweet version of my own making, I've included the recipe here, though I'm still in the process of tweaking it. Polenta cooking instructions are on the box; in order to slice it like I have here, you'll need to chill it in a loaf pan until firm enough to slice (preferably overnight). This is just the good ol' tube kind from the store. A few blackberries on the plate...and we have achieved Culinary Orgasm.

Poached Eggs with Caponata and Polenta

These can be baked in a water bath, per the leek recipe above; for one or two servings, the microwave actually works pretty well, so those are the directions I'm giving here.

For one serving :

1 egg
2 tablespoons caponata (purchased, or recipe below)
1 slice polenta, warmed (this can also be microwaved, but for extra polenta goodness sear the slices in a pan with pan spray until a little toasted on both sides)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pan spray

Spray a custard cup (or oven-safe mug, or small bowl) with pan spray. Spoon the caponata into the cup, then carefully crack the egg on top, Microwave until the egg is done to your liking; I suggest starting with 30 seconds, then adding time in 15 second intervals until its cooked just how you like it,

Slide the egg onto the slice of warmed polenta, and enjoy !

Light + Simple Caponata 
(loosely based on a Weight Watchers version, not linkable - sorry !!)

Pan spray  
1 small uncooked red onion, chopped  
1 small eggplant, diced (small  cubes)
1 Tbsp capers, drained and chopped  
1 tsp minced garlic  
14 oz can fire roasted chopped tomatoes, undrained  
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano  (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried)
2 Tbsp vinegar  
1/4 cup water, if needed
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Spray a large sauté pan or a high-sided skillet with cooking spray. Set over medium heat, add onion, and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, or until softened.  Add eggplant and continue cooking, stirring often, for 4 minutes, or until eggplant softens at edges. Stir in capers and garlic; cook for a few seconds, until fragrant.

Stir in tomatoes, oregano, basil and vinegar; add water if it seems dry. Bring to a full simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer slowly for 30 minutes, until slightly reduced and the eggplant is nice and soft.

This will make more than you need; caponata is tasty with all sorts of things. Serve it as a side dish, use it to top chicken or fish before baking, spread it on bread...whatever floats your boat !