Healthier Party Food: Eggplant Agrodolce with Pinenuts

When we throw a party, we like to start early. Happy-hour-style drinks mean we can enjoy our balcony (a rarity in Manhattan) with friends while the sun is still out. The problem, though, is that starting a party early means folks won’t necessarily have eaten dinner. As the night goes on, having plenty of good food to offer is essential. People don’t actually want to make a meal of brie and crackers.

That’s where this sweet and sour Eggplant Agrodolce comes in. I’ve learned over the years that I become a stressed, panicky mess if I leave too much party prep to the last minute. I need recipes that can be prepared the night before and tossed onto the table as guests arrive. I make a variety of easy spreads and dips, and a killer garlicky white-bean bruschetta, but I was drawn to this recipe from Andrew Carmellini’s gorgeous Urban Italian because it’s a little more substantial and fresh-tasting. It’s vegetarian, and pretty healthy, and totally works as a make-ahead dish (though I did microwave it for a minute to take the chill off before serving.)

I used regular eggplants, not the lovely slender Japanese sort, because a person can only go to so many grocery stores before a party, and I’d already hit my limit. Carmellini  warns that this is a dangerous swap, and suggests salting them in a colander for half an hour, but I simply removed the ends (which can be bitter) and skipped the salting. It worked out fine. I’ve actually read that salting can adversely affect the egpplant’s texture, so if you’re using fresh eggplants, I’d skip it…

I also scattered a handful of toasted pine nuts over the eggplant before serving. The earthy nuts balance the sweet-and-sour sauce, grounding the tangy flavor a bit. Be sure to cut the eggplant small if you’re intending this as finger food—large slices are a little intimidating to party guests, especially if they have a glass of wine in hand. Continue reading…