In this summer Italian feast, local produce sets the table for a sun-savory al fresco dinner.
serves 10 to 12 | 40 minutes
1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/3-inch-thick rounds
olive oil for brushing
1 red bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and stem removed
1 baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup basil leaves, packed, then cut into ribbons.
Heat grill to medium-high heat.
Brush both sides of eggplant rounds with olive oil.
Brush both sides of baguette slices with olive oil.
Once grill is hot, grill brushed eggplant slices 4 minutes on each side, until noticeable grill marks appear, turning heat to medium if necessary. Stack grilled eggplant slices and cover tightly with foil.
Grill the red pepper halves over medium-high heat until just tender and grill marks appear. Place with the eggplant under the foil.
Grill the baguette slices until toasted. (Alternatively, you may bake the bread on a sheet pan in a 375°F oven until crisp, and do this the day before.)
Uncover the eggplant and let cool, then dice into small 1/3-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl. Dice the bell pepper the same. Add the garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, capers, and salt. Taste and add salt if necessary, remembering that the bread will dilute some of the salt.
Right before serving, stir in the basil ribbons. To make ribbons, stack the basil leaves uniformly. Roll up from point end to stem end. Thinly slice the roll.
Serve the grilled baguette alongside the eggplant caponata, or place a tablespoon on each piece, garnishing with more basil.