The culinary scene in sedate Palm Springs, Calif. has been getting a welcome jolt over the past few years from a couple of young upstarts named Tara Lazar and Marco Rossetti. The pair owns Birba, a stylish pizza-and-cocktails place, as well as Jiao, a hip new Asian spot. One of my favourite dishes at Birba is the burratawith caponata, a perfect appetizer for this time of year and easy to make at home. In Italian, burrata means “buttered,” an indication of just how decadent this cheese is. The outside is a thin shell of salty mozzarella, while the interior is creamier and slightly sweet – a fine complement to tangy caponata, a complexly spiced stewed-eggplant dish. Versatile and adaptable, it can be served as an appetizer or a side or even on its own with grilled bread for a light lunch.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1 tsp red-pepper chili flakes
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- Pinch cayenne
- ¼ tsp cocoa powder
- 1 eggplant (about 500 grams),
- cubed in 1-inch pieces
- 1 red pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 1 tbsp dried cranberries
- 1 tbsp pine nuts
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp capers
- ¼ cup water
- 1 or 2 balls burrata
- (depending on size)
- Toasted ciabatta
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, chili flakes, garlic, sugar, cinnamon, cayenne and cocoa powder. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until onions start to brown, stirring continuously to prevent spices from burning. Add the eggplant and red pepper and cook until they begin to brown (about 4 to 5 minutes).
Stir in cranberries, pine nuts, vinegar and capers. Sauté for 4 to 6 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
Add water and bring to a boil, stirring. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until thick, dark and glossy and the flavours melt into each other. Add salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar to taste.
Serve either warm or cooled, with an oozing ball of burrata and crunchy ciabatta.