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Samfaina


Samfaina is the Catalan answer to the French ratatouille. In this very traditional and popular dish, eggplant, tomato, and peppers are diced up in small pieces and stewed down until they get to a relish-like consistency. In fact, all over Spain there are similar preparations going by different names. The Basque have “piperrada.” La Mancha has “pisto.” Mallorca has “tumbet.” There’s “alboronía” in Andalucia, and “titaina” in Valencia. Each have their own subtle differences in technique and ingredients, which I hope to explore in detail here over time, but they all follow a similar theme.

Samfaina can be used as an accompaniment or garnish for poultry, fish, and just about anything else. There is a famous dish of boiled bacalao (salt cod) served with samfaina. It also makes a light meal on bread. It can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. It is better after a day or two in the fridge, as the flavors have more time to come together. Because it keeps well in the fridge, I generally make a big batch so I can eat it for a few days with whatever I pull out of the pantry. If you don’t want such a large amount, cut this recipe in half.

Samfaina as a garnish for seared tuna (corn purée underneath)

Ingredients (makes about 6 cups)

¼ cup sunflower or canola oil

3 cups (2 medium) onions, peeled and cut in small dice

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

3 cups bell peppers (about 3 peppers) mixed colors, seeded and cut in small dice

3 cups tomatoes, cut in small dice

4½ cups eggplant (about 2 large eggplants), cut in small dice

1 bunch parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil

Salt TT

1. Heat a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pan on a medium-low flame. When hot, add the sunflower oil, the onions, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt, and then cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are meltingly soft, but not browned.


2. Add the bell peppers, and continue cooking, stirring regularly, until the bell peppers are well cooked, but not browned. When the peppers are soft, add the tomatoes and another pinch of salt.


3. Cook the tomatoes for about 5 minutes. This should be enough to release all of their juices and bring the juices up to a gentle simmer. Stir the eggplant in while all of the liquid is simmering. Continue cooking, stirring regularly, until the liquid has almost completely reduced away. Stir in the parsley and cook for another minute or two.


4. Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust salt as needed. Stir in the extra virgin olive oil. Can be served immediately, or can be cooled down and saved for later.

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