Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant dish made from a cooked vegetable salad of chopped roasted eggplant and other wonderfully seasoned vegetables, vinegar, sugar, olive, capers, a really good olive oil and more. It’s also know as “eggplant appetizer” if you buy it in the can (yuck).
3 large eggplants, remove skin (removing skin is optional, but recommended), cut into small chunks
1 tablespoon salt (or more to taste)
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil, plus more for sprinkling on the raw eggplant before roasting
1 large onion, chopped small
1 roasted red pepper (packed in oil in a jar) minced
1.5 cups crushed tomatoes (I like Cento)
1/2 cup green olives, chopped small
3 tablespoons capers packed in brine, drained
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or to taste)
2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
A handful of fresh basil, chopped
Taste as you go. It’s all about preference. Do you like it more sweet or more vinegary? (is that a word?)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the eggplant in a strainer and salt well, toss. Let the eggplant sit for about a half an hour. This will remove a lot of the moisture in the eggplant. Put the salted eggplant on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Roast for about 20 minutes until it’s really soft. While your eggplant is roasting get a large frying pan, sauté the onions in 1/4 cup of olive oil on medium for about 5-7 minutes. Then add the crushed tomatoes, roasted red pepper and basil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add olives, capers, vinegar and sugar and let simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Add the roasted eggplant and stir until blended, continue simmering for another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot or cold on crusty bread or artisan crackers.
I like to make this ahead of time and refrigerate it because it gives all the flavors time to marry. I prefer eating it cold. This is my grandma’s recipe revised a bit. She used celery in hers, but I feel the flavor of celery takes over, so I just eliminated it. There are variations of this caponata that you can buy in a can or jar, but they are SO sweet you can’t taste anything but sugar, so I recommend trying this recipe. It’s fresh, you’ll taste all the wonderful ingredients, and people you serve it to will just go crazy for it.