Few things in life compare to the sublime taste of a well made eggplant Caponata.
Though Caponata means pickled, if sour vegetable slivers come to mind, you couldn't be further from the truth. It's best to think of it as eggplant melding with delicious flavors. Overnight.
Traditionally, glossy Italian (not Asian) eggplants are cut into chunks and fried in olive oil to soften. Onions are sautéed and plump, ripe tomatoes are added along with celery, capers, pine nuts, olives and parsley.
Red wine vinegar and sugar is added in a perfect balance of flavors. The resulting, robust and full flavored caponata is stored in the refrigerator in sterilized jars where it will happily keep for several weeks.
Only one problem with that - you won't give it a chance to keep. Once you've heaped enormous globs of this wonderful creation on crust bread and bit into it, you'll keep coming for more. I for one, heap it on everything from pan seared fish to butter lettuce!
A must when a crowd needs feeding, this is one of the finest vegetable creations to come out of Sicily and the fact that it is so very delicious and must be made a few days in advance which is all the more reason to add this to your culinary repertoire.
Sicilian Eggplant Caponata from Palermo
Serves 4-6 – for appetizer
2 large purple, glossy and firm eggplants (not Asian)
olive oil for shallow frying
2 tsp sea salt for roasting
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil for cooking
yellow onions, 2 yield 2 cups chopped
2 celery stalks
2 tbsp. capers, drained
2 tbsp. pine nuts
1⁄2 cup Castelvetrano green olives, pitted and hand-torn
San Marzano canned tomatoes, 4 tomatoes and sauce
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
To serve ~
sliced & toasted Italian bread slices
Eggplant: Cut away the woody top and discard. Slice lengthwise into 1⁄2-3/4”" thick (no
thinner) slices and chop into cubes. Sprinkle with sea salt and place in a colander for 15
minutes. Dry with kitchen paper towels.
Onions: Peel, discard ends and skin. Quarter each onion and finely slice into quarter-
Celery: Cut away the bottom 2 inches and the top leaves. Dice into 1/4" pieces.
1. For the eggplant, heat a 10” non-stick skillet on medium-high and add enough
olive oil so that the olive oil reaches 3⁄4” height in the pan. Heat until the oil is
2. Add some of the eggplant so not to overcrowd the pan and fry until soft and
golden brown. Remove to a kitchen paper lined plate and repeat with the
remaining eggplant in batches until all the eggplant is fried.
3. Meanwhile, use the same olive oil and measure 1/3 cup to a large heavy-duty pan.
4. On medium-high heat, add the onions, celery and 1⁄2 tsp salt and sauté for about
7-8 minutes until the onions have softened but not discolored or browned.
5. Add the capers, olives and pine nuts and continue to cook for another 5 minutes
on medium heat.
6. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and on low heat, simmer for another 15
minutes, placing the lid on the pan.
7. Add all the remaining ingredients - eggplant, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and
pepper. Stir to combine and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.
8. Taste and adjust seasonings.
9. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 1-2
days or ATLEAST overnight so the eggplant can absorb all the great flavors.
10. When ready to serve, allow to return to room temperature for a few hours and
serve with toasted Italian bread or simply crusty bread.
11. Make Ahead Tips: In jars that have been sterilized in the dishwasher and then
completely dried, refrigerate the caponata and enjoy over the next week or 10