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Chef Ronnen and Jones eggplant caponata over buckwheat and black quinoa

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At the Sun Valley Harvest Festival in September, chef Tal Ronnen, owner of West Hollywood’s Crossroads restaurant, and his executive chef Scott Jones demonstrated their flavorful vegetarian cuisine for the well-healed attendees at this posh resort. Although Sun Valley may be out of budget for many, Ronnen and Jones’ cuisine is well within the means of the average working American. Chefs to A-list celebrities, Tal Ronnen’s bestselling The Conscious Cook will intrigue any carnivore.

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Eggplant caponata over buckwheat and black quinoa

Ingredients for the caponata

The caponata will stay fresh covered and refrigerated for several days and makes a terrific cold appetizer on crackers or topping for bruschetta.

  • 5 large sweet red peppers, roasted and diced
  • 2 large eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium to large white onions, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons capers
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C). Place the red peppers on a lightly oiled or parchment paper lined sheet pan. Roast the peppers for 30 minutes turning every 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven and place in a paper bag. Roll the top of the bag shut and cool for 30 minutes. Remove the peppers and slip off the charred skin. Discard the seeds and dice the peppers. You should have approximately 2 to 2-1/2 cups diced pepper.
  2. Heat a wide deep (4”) pot on medium high heat for a couple minutes. Add the olive oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the eggplant, onions and celery and sauté for several minutes stirring a couple times. Add the red peppers and cook for 3 minutes more.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.
  4. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook uncovered for 1 hour stirring every 8 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve over the buckwheat and black quinoa

Ingredients for quinoa

The use of black quinoa is for color contrast, not taste. Therefore any color quinoa is fine.

  • 1 cup black quinoa
  • 3 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt

Preparation

  1. Place the quinoa in a bowl, cover with cold water and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain through a strainer and rinse.
  2. Bring the water or stock to a boil. Add the quinoa and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. When done the quinoa will display a tiny white thread.
  3. Drain through a sieve and return to the pan. Cover the pan and let rest for 10 minutes.

Ingredients for the toasted buckwheat

  • 1 cup toasted buckwheat (kasha)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. If you have purchased untoasted buckwheat (kasha), place the buckwheat in a dry sauté pan and toast over high heat, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. In a medium saucepan bring the water, oil and salt to a boil. Add the buckwheat and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.

Place a generous spoonful of quinoa and buckwheat, side-by-side, on a dinner plate. Place a generous serving of caponata on top but leave each of the grains still visible on the sides. Serves 4 as an entrée, or twice that many as a first course, and with a tossed salad, or a Greek salad, you have a delicious vegetarian meal.

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