I am in love with this Sicilian eggplant relish.
Always have been.
I used to buy it in a can and keep it in my locker in high school (along with a jar of marinated artichokes too). See, I was obsessed with food even then.
I make this every summer, and this time I served it with some nice roasted pepper petals along side.
Some recipes call for pine nuts, some for raisins. I am always on the side of raisins.
I use basil from my garden, and during August I use my homegrown eggplant and peppers too.
The recipe is time consuming, but it's worth it and makes a large batch.
Caponata w/ Roasted Peppers (Sicilian Eggplant Relish): (adapted from Simply Recipes)
2 large Italian eggplants, about 1 lb each, diced
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small red onion, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
4-6 plum tomatoes, finely chopped (or small can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 cup pitted green olives, finely chopped (I use Manzanilla)
2 Tbsp small capers, drained
handful of golden raisins (optional)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
roasted red & yellow bell peppers for decoration (recipe here)
Eggplant can be bitter and a pain to fry, so salting it first is a good idea.
Place the eggplant in colander and salt it w/ kosher salt. Place a heavy plate over the eggplant to cover, and place a heavy can on top to weigh it down.
Leave this for about an hour. Rinse the eggplant and dry it with paper towels. Now you are ready to fry it.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery, season with kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Wipe the pan with a paper towel, turn the heat to high and add the remaining olive oil. Let this heat until the oil is nearly smoking. Add the eggplant and spread it out in as thin a layer as you can in the skillet. Let this sizzle for 1-2 minutes before stirring, then let it sit for a full minute before stirring again. Cook like this for 5-6 minutes.
Add the onion-celery mixture, the tomatoes, olives, and capers. Stir well. Add the vinegar, sugar and tomato paste and stir once more. Cook, stirring occasionally until eggplant is very soft, about 8 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Mix in the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place caponata in a ring mold in the center of a serving plate.
Slice roasted peppers into flower petals and decorate around the ring mold.
Place a fresh basil leaf in between each pepper slice.
Place some basil chiffonade on top of the caponata and serve with crackers or crostini.
How could anyone dig into this beautiful food? You are an artist!