From Peter Salerno’s Kitchen: Eggplant Caponata

Looking for a delicious, authentic Sicilian appetizer or side dish for your next traditional Italian dinner? If you’re looking for a fresh take on classic Sicilian ingredients that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser for even the most discriminating Italian taste buds, then Caponata is the perfect dish for your table.

Caponata (also spelled “capunata”) is a traditional Sicilian eggplant dish that forms a beautiful vegetable salad that pairs perfectly with fish entrees. The eggplant is chopped and fried in olive oil, then served with a melange of vegetables, pine nuts  and celery in a sweet and sour sauce.

From Peter Salerno's Kitchen: SAVEUR's outstanding recipe for caponata.
From Peter Salerno’s Kitchen: SAVEUR’s outstanding recipe for caponata.

There are many variations on caponata, but our favorite comes from a reliable source: the fine people at SAVEUR have once again provided an outstanding, authentic Sicilian recipe that has graced our table more than once. Their unique blend of sweet and sour, utilizing a wide variety of ingredients (from green olives to unsweetened chocolate!), creates the perfect blend for eggplant caponata.

Try it for yourself. We think you’ll be thrilled with the result, and your guests will find this recipe for caponata one-of-a-kind – and leave them begging for seconds!

Peter Salerno’s Favorite Caponata Recipe (from SAVEUR)

SERVES 6-8

INGREDIENTS

3 cups olive oil
2 lbs. eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. tomato paste, thinned with ¼ cup water
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
6 oz. green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. finely grated unsweetened chocolate
½ cup finely shredded basil
2 tbsp. pine nuts

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Working in batches, add eggplant and fry, tossing occasionally, until browned, 3–4 minutes.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a large bowl; set aside.
  • Pour off all but ¼ cup oil, and reserve for another use.
  • Return skillet to heat, add onions and celery, and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, 10 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium, and add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 1–2 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, sugar, and chocolate, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  • Transfer to bowl with eggplant, along with basil and pine nuts, and mix together.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and let cool to room temperature before serving.

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