Capanata:Sicilian Style Ratatouille 

2 unpeeled eggplants diced
3 peeled tomatoes, diced
2 ounces sliced black olives
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 TBS chopped garlic
1 TBS capers
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper, olive oil

Put diced eggplant in colander, sprinkle with salt and let stand 30 minutes. Put all ingredients but eggplant and celery in a skillet with olive oil. Cook until a thick sauce develops. Add eggplant and celery and cook 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and add pepper and vinegar.
May be served hot as a side dish or chilled and used as a salad or chunky dip. Mangia! 

 

"The Desperation of Beauty...The Tale of a Small Town Eggplant in the Big City

The City, I thought, It’s got to be better than this wretched place. I was tired of warding off the rough farm hands that daily caressed my developing body. I wasn’t raised to be treated like this. After all, I was a black beauty; I deserved the best. My opportunity to escape happened a fortnight later when I heard the old Ford 150 engine rev to life. I hopped into the back of the truck, cowered behind several wooden crates, and thus began my journey.

The humidity of the sultry June night soon covered me with a slick coat of moisture. The old truck’s springs were shot. The first pot hole we hit was one too many. I snuggled into a crumpled tarp to protect my delicate skin from bruises. I dozed as the truck sped northward through the small towns in Plaquemines Parish. About midnight, the truck lurched to a stop and I awoke. The French Market! I had arrived. Look out Quarter, here I come.

I sauntered down Decatur Street avoiding puddles of . . . god-knows-what. Jackson Square under the night sky was gorgeous. The moon smiled a huge silver crescent on my purple satin gown. Nothing in Plaquemines could compare to the stark white beauty of the Cathedral against the night sky.

The heat was oppressive. I longed for a place to rest, but all the benches were occupied or locked behind bars. I had no money. Even a cheap flophouse was out of the question. I turned down St. Louis Street hoping to find a friendly stoop. No such luck. Tired and confused I leaned against a lamp post.

"All-right little lady, let’s see some ID"

I knew it! Sooner or later the cops always nab you for something, I thought as I fumbled for my ID.

"Thanks, Miss." The Officer took my ID and studied it . . . and me. Seconds passed, which seemed like hours. His dull eyes drilled through me then darted over my body so swiftly that for a moment I thought he had fifty eyes. "You’re mighty young to be out on the street this late, Ms. Berjean," he growled.

"My friends call me O," I said in my most seductive voice.

His no nonsense voice replied, "Step over there Ms. Berjean." He pointed to an alcove by Antoine’s Restaurant.

I looked good. We both knew it. My dark purple satin gown fitted my ample bottom like a second skin. I coyly pared my garment off my shoulders to expose my creamy flesh. His eyes hungered after me as I sashayed across the street and struck what I thought was a tantalizing pose.
"Quick!" he shouted. "Go down that alley. I’ll be there in a minute. I must be sure no one follows us. "

I waited in the darkness, wondering what would happen next. After a few minutes, the cop’s corpulent russet body emerged from the steamy shadows. He mashed me against Antoine’s back door.

"Watch out, Big Boy," I gasped, "I bruise easily." This guy was out of shape, way out of shape. Obviously he spent all of his off hours being a couch potato.

"You know I could arrest you," he hissed.

"Why? What’d I do?"

"Don’t pull that innocent act on me. I didn’t roll off the turnip truck yesterday. You’re young and tender, just ripe for the picking." His eyes shifted over my firm young body once again.

"Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself," I said with youthful arrogance.

"The street’s no place for a young thing like you. The heat alone will make you wither in three or four days. You fancy yourself a black beauty, don’t ya?"

"I am a black beauty! Any fool can see that," I sneered.

"Well, let me tell you a thing or two my fine young beauty. If you stay out all night in this heat that lovely dress you’re wearing will be nothing but a wrinkled mess by morning. After a few days of living on the streets you’ll be old and bitter."

I wouldn’t admit it, but I knew he was right. Strange things happen to folks that become the victims of age and unrelenting heat. Their skin pales, becomes wrinkled and scarred; even their attitude is tough.

"For your own good, I’m taking you to the cooler," he stated.

Rats! My first night in town and I get busted by the Vegetable Police."Stay here, Ms. O Berjean!" he ordered. "You’ll be safe. Antoine’s doesn’t have eggplant on the menu. I’ll run up to Bourbon Street to find a cold beer truck you can stow away in."

He dashed down the alley. When he reached the curb, he stopped, turned and eyed me once more. "Wait there, I’ll be back," he yelled. Those were his final words. Officer Russet stepped off the curb into the path of an oncoming taxi and was instantly reduced to mashed potatoes.

I was alone, totally alone, in a city that was no longer friendly. Hours passed. I crouched in the shadows to hide from the dawn. I’ve got to get out of here. I inched down the alley staying as close to the rough walls as possible. I no longer cared if my purple satin gown got ripped or my skin bruised. The sun’s grin was hot and scorching. The harsh rays of the noonday sun scalded my skin. My once-gorgeous purple gown was wrinkled and faded.

I spied a shady doorway. Ah, The Court of the Two Sisters. Perhaps these kind ladies will give me shelter, I thought as I staggered into the covered hallway. I leaned against the cool wall and sighed, Ah! Safe at last. I relaxed into a drowsy stupor.

My reverie was broken when a large white sleeved arm , pungent with garlic, grabbed me from my dark corner and a voice exclaimed, "What a surprise! A black beauty. Perfect for capanata."