Sometimes food genius strikes via random luck. And sometimes it’s a combination of luck and leftovers. Take this weekend lunch. Leftover warm salad of eggplant, zucchini, tomato, red onion, olives, basil and parsley. Thrown into a pan with kidney beans and more tomato. A hit of cayenne and we had a peasant’s feast in five minutes. Better than any tin of beans you’ll find on the shelf. And with a bit more vegie content than your traditional baked beans. Warming autumnal fare.
Now, I wasn’t exactly sure what to call this dish, because it’s a bitser. It’s much like a ratatouille, or the Spanish version pisto, but with beans, which I have a serious thing for at the moment. I used kidney beans which (like all beans) are high in fibre, but also a great digestive cleanser and with loads of nutrients – calcium, magnesium, folic acid and other goodies. Did you know that eating beans with tomatoes (high in Vitamin C) helps iron absorption? Handy.
So. The name of this dish reflects its evolution. Which began with a chunky salad, loosely based on the Sicilian warm salad, caponata, adapted by Jamie Oliver in a recent issue of Delicious. Just to complete the circle, caponata is like the Italian version of ratatouille! You can actually take the relevant parts from the recipe below and just make the salad. Or go the full bean. Up to you, but kind of cool that you get two dishes from one recipe! (Kicking myself I didn’t get a photo of the salad – but you can imagine what it looks like with those vibrant, just-browned green and yellow zucchinis and eggplant all draped over themselves in a bowl with red onion and tomato, covered with lotsa herbs. Rainbow-esque.)
Oh, and while I’m on the subject of caponata, I rather like the look of Yotam Ottolenghi’s take on it. Bookmarked.
Have a fabulous weekend all, and have fun with whatever leftovers you find in your fridge!
The recipe uses kidney beans, but you could easily substitute cannellini or butter beans, or even chickpeas. If using uncooked beans, soak them overnight, rinse them before using and boil them in a pot of water according to directions.
for the salad
3 finger eggplants, quartered lengthways (or 1 small-medium sized eggplant, cut into eighths lengthways)
3 small green or yellow zucchini, quartered lengthways
4 roma tomatoes, quartered
2 small red onions, cut into wedges
scoop of whole green olives
big handful each of basil and parsley
sea-salt and pepper to taste
for the beans
1 can kidney beans, rinsed well and drained
1 can whole tomatoes
cayenne pepper to taste
sea-salt and pepper
For the salad, heat a splash of olive oil in a skillet and add the vegies and olives in a single layer, doing them in batches until lightly browned. You don’t want them to sweat or stew, so don’t overload the pan. Turn them as they cook and rest on absorbent paper when done. This should only take about five minutes all up. If you’re just making the salad, plonk everything in a serving bowl, season with sea-salt and pepper and throw in handfuls of fresh herbs.
If you’re making the beans, remove the vegies from the pan and add the can of whole tomatoes, breaking them up roughly with the back of a spoon. Add the beans and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the vegies and olives and heat through. Season with sea-salt, pepper and cayenne and throw in handfuls of fresh herbs.
The salad serves two as a light main or three to four as a side. The caponata style beans serve 4 as a main (and are great with toast).