(Italian sweet and sour eggplant dish)
This sweet and sour vegetable dish embodies the essence of Sicilian cucina povera, or "cuisine of the poor" — simple, seasonal, local ingredients used at the peak of freshness. As with so much of peasant cuisine, the delicious final dish exceeds the sum of its parts.
Caponata has hundreds of variations following regional, city or family traditions. Nevertheless, all versions include eggplant, celery, olive oil and have a sweet and sour (agrodolce) flavor profile.
Also known as capunata, or caponatina.
4 to 6 servings
- Eggplant -- 2 pounds
- Kosher salt -- 2 tablespoons, plus more for seasoning
- Olive oil -- 1/4 cup
- Onion, chopped - 1
- Celery, chopped -- 6 or 7 stalks
- Ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped -- 1 pound
- Sugar -- 1/4 cup
- White wine vinegar -- 1/4 cup
- Salt -- to taste
- Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and toss with the kosher salt. Place the salted eggplant in a colander and set it in the sink or another bowl to drain for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse the eggplant with fresh water, drain and then squeeze out any excess moisture.
- Add half the olive oil to a large saute pan or skillet and heat over medium-high flame. Add the eggplant and saute until partially cooked and beginning to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant to a bowl and set aside.
- Pour the remaining olive oil into the pan and return it to medium flame. Add the onion and celery and saute until the onion is cooked through and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for another 3 or 4 minutes.
- Return the eggplant to the pan, along with the sugar and white wine vinegar. Stir together and season with salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Remove from heat, adjust seasoning and serve warm or at room temperature as a side dish, as a topping for fish and seafood or as a mouthwatering spread for crusty bread.
- A wide variety of additional ingredients can be added to caponata. Here is a partial list of some of the more common additions. Use what you have on hand.
- Chopped peaches or pears
- Black or golden raisins
- Chopped fresh or roasted bell peppers
- Black or green olives
- Chopped fresh basil or parsley
- Toasted pine nuts
- Toasted and chopped almonds
- Cooked octopus or other seafood
- Chunks of tuna steak
- Use honey instead of sugar
- Many recipes call for boiling the celery in salted water separately, adding it to the rest only at the end. This ensures that the celery is tender; simply sauteing celery can leave it fairly crunchy.