Caponata Sunshine

I am in love with this Sicilian eggplant relish.
Always have been.

Salty Sweet.

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
kosher salt
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.


Eileen said…
How absolutely lovely! Have got to make this!
mil said…
How could anyone dig into this beautiful food? You are an artist!
Anonymous said…
You should turn that pix of the caponata into a flag, and fly it in front of your house all summer. Couldn't look more cheery or delicious!
Anonymous said…
Similar, but not exactly my late Jewish mother-in-law's recipe - a family favorite. Wilma added a 4oz can of sliced mushrooms (that rubbery, pickled quality a surprisingly nice addition), 1/2 c fresh chopped green bell pepper, for tomato element used 1 small can of tomato paste, 1/2 c of sliced black olives instead of the green (visually the black works great), no capers, no celery, a bit more garlic. I like this spicy spread on those hearty little melba rounds. What did your hs classmates make of your locker 'pantry' !?!
Ciao Chow Linda said…
Beautiful presentation Stacey. This is one of my favorite ways to use that summertime eggplant, but I'll take both the raisins and pine nuts please.
I love caponata and you made it look absolutely beautiful, like a fine dining experience!
Rosetta said…
Bravissima !
Oui Chef said…
Breathtakingly beautiful....REALLY!