Do you love eggplant?
Do you love sweet & sour? (I should say sweet & savory, this is not a Chinese restaurant).
If you answered "yes" to the above 2 questions, then you will love caponata.
This is probably my #1 favorite summer appetizer.
Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant relish that is delicious on everything.
Swiped on bread, over pasta, on fish, on an antipasti plate, or just eaten out of the bowl.
When I was young, I used to buy little cans of Progresso caponata and eat it out of the can (where did I come from?), and would always get a stomach ache because it was so oily, but so good.
A little goes a long way.
I made 2 big batches and brought it to a Passover seder and everyone loved it with matzoh!
Now that it's summer, I will be making this all the time.
This is time consuming, but oh so worth it. Make a double batch and put it out with crackers and watch it disappear.
Sicilian Eggplant Caponata:
you will need about 1/4-1/2 olive oil to saute all the vegetables.
2 eggplants (about 2 lbs.), cut into 1⁄2" cubes
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced crosswise
3 tbsp. tomato paste diluted w/ some water
1 small can of chopped tomatoes (8 oz.)
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup capers
10 pitted green olives, such as Cerignola, coarsely chopped (I used Manzanilla)
kosher salt & ground black pepper
2 tbsp. chopped basil
2 tbsp. pine nuts
Put eggplant into a colander set over a large bowl; toss with 1 tbsp. salt. Top with a plate weighted down with several large cans; let drain for 1 hour.
Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add one-third of the eggplant and cook until golden brown, 7–8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a bowl. Repeat with oil and remaining eggplant (you will have to keep adding oil, since the eggplant soaks it right up).
Add more oil to the skillet as needed and cook the onions and celery about 6 minutes, then add the tomato paste diluted with a little water. Cook another 2 minutes until tomato paste has evaporated. Season w/ salt & pepper.
Add the chopped tomatoes, the vinegar, raisins, olives, capers and sugar and simmer this mixture 15-20 minutes until it gets nice and thick and all the vegetables look jam like.
Add the cooked tomato mixture to the cooked eggplant in the bowl and toss w/ fresh basil leaves and pine nuts.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to add parsley, roasted red pepper or an anchovy to the skillet.
This is my basic recipe and it is always a winner!
You can make this 3 days in advance and keep in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.