Last week I had a serious eggplant (aubergine) obsession. I particularly love it served rustic and simple – roasted with tomatoes, a generous amount of olive oil and fresh mint, making it the perfect accompaniment to anything from a green salad, to a bowl of pasta, to a crusty baguette. Yum. In a moment of inspiration, I decided to pair it with juicy, tender boneless, skinless chicken breasts and a feisty tomato sauce – a puttanesca-inspired sauce – a sauce packed with salty, savory flavors and the briny magic of anchovies and their indescribable umami quality that keeps us wanting more.
It’s fantastically healthy too, for a vegetarian version, go ahead and skip the chicken and toss in another eggplant. Eggplants are filled with fibre and lots of disease fighting antioxidants! I chose Barbarella eggplant for it’s excellent taste – it’s pure mild, nutty and slightly sweet goodness. You’ll recognize this Sicilian eggplant by its round, dark purple color that sports a subtle white halo, which by the way indicates it’s tenderness, the more white, the more tender. It has a wonderfully dense flesh, making it extra awesome for grilling.
This dish is the perfect weeknight dinner – it’s easy to throw together, perfectly filling and delicious! All the ingredients are typical of southern Italian cuisine and complement each other perfectly. It’s loaded with eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic and chili. All of which help this sauce live up to its distinctly “sassy” name. And if I was you, I would eat this with a glass of red in one hand and trashy novel in the other.
SICILIAN PUTTANESCA CHICKEN WITH BARBARELLA EGGPLANT
4 organic skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 medium-sized eggplant, peeled and cut into 3cm cubes
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
3-4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste)
1/2 cup white wine (120 ml)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
500 g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and sliced into strips
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1-2 sprigs oregano, leaves removed and finely diced
handful of fresh basil, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
additional salt may not be needed, so be sure to taste for seasoning
handful of fresh grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Flatten any thick slices of chicken with a meat hammer (or a rolling pin!) so that they are even, season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear chicken on both sides until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining oil and eggplant cubes and sauté until the edges begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, shallot, and anchovies and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
3. Add the wine, olives, capers, tomato and red chili and increase the heat to medium high, until it reaches a simmer.
4. Add the chicken to the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes, turning chicken once as it cooks. Stir in the oregano and parsley. Season sauce with freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste.
5. Transfer the chicken onto a serving platter, spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with basil and parmesan, if using.
This dish is particularly tasty served over pasta or polenta. Enjoy!