I used to see Italian food as an indulgence, something to be enjoyed only when I was willing to break all dieting rules and go the distance in a calorie overload. Little did I know that what I saw as Italian food was actually far from authentic. Over the years traditional Italian dishes have been over cheesed, over sauced, and served with far too many carbs in order to appease overindulgent appetites. With this ludicrous idea of "Italian food" I'd dubbed myself as "not such a fan".
My world recently changed forever with the simple act of picking up a traditional Italian cookbook. Most every recipe was incredibly simple with minimal ingredients and a lot of fresh vegetables. After reading the book cover to cover I learned that most Italian dishes revolve around vegetables with meats and pastas coming in to play a supporting role. This is certainly the complete opposite of what I had in mind but let me tell you, after nearly 30 years of being "not such a fan" Italian is now my favorite way to eat!
One of the first recipes I tried out was Ciambotta, pronounced Cham-boat-tah, an eggplant and tomato mixture that can be used as a dip for vegetables or as a vegetarian main course. Fresh eggplant and tomatoes are cooked together with some fresh herbs until everything melds together. How you choose to use it after that is entirely up to you. I must admit I was very skeptical of this recipe because the list of ingredients was so minimal. Can a mix of eggplant, tomatoes and a couple of herbs really blow my mind? There wasn't even mention of adding a dash of salt or pepper! I've made it three times since trying it out two weeks ago; enough said. I just can't get enough! Not only does it taste amazing and fill me right up, but it is by far one of the most affordable dishes I've made, ever. Eggplant and Roma tomatoes are some of the most affordable produce you can buy this time of year and my recipe makes enough to insure leftovers the next day.
As usual after making the original recipe I started playing with it a bit. Combining Ciambotta with another new favorite, Puttanesca (a spicy olive sauce), proved to be quite the culinary experience. The addition of briny capers and just a touch of aged Romano cheese takes this Ciambotta to a whole new level. I've even made it easier than ever to create by using Litehouse's Instantly Fresh Herbs, saving me from any additional chopping and mincing. Do not assume that Italian Night does not fit in with your healthy daily diet when in fact the opposite is true. Begin your Italian journey with my Ciambotta Bruschetta with Capers. Let it inspire you to dive deep into the amazing Italian culture where recipes are generally passed down for generations before making it into a modern day cookbook. Your family and taste buds will thank you and your house will always smell like home.