The eggplant harvest continues here. We picked a couple more before the hurricane/tropical storm hit last weekend and the plants with smaller eggplant survived the storm, thankfully. Today, I’m highlighting this eggplant caponata and I truly believe it’s a dish that every cook should have in his/her repertoire. If you’re unfamiliar with it, caponata is a traditional Sicilian stew (entrée, side, or appetizer/antipasti) usually made with eggplant, celery, capers, and a tomato-based sauce but [according to Wikipedia] other add-ins such as red peppers, pine nuts, raisins, olives, carrots, octopus, and lobster are also widely accepted.
In this recipe, the eggplant is sautéed down to a soft and almost spreadable texture which makes the caponata a gorgeous addition to some crusty bread (which we had for dinner twice this past week). I also considered serving this over pasta and also on it’s own with a small salad on the side, and I think it would make an excellent complement to a meaty fish like halibut or swordfish. For lunch this week, I put the caponata on a toasted hard roll with some provolone (also twice this week – the recipe makes a lot of caponata!) and it made for a terrific sandwich. All in all, Kyle and I both fell in love with this recipe and I’m contemplating if I should make it again for an upcoming party next weekend. The caponata is warm and earthy with a deep flavor of fresh tomato sauce and it’s these simple flavors that make it so easy to fall in love with. It’s a recipe that I’ll be able to make all year round (wouldn’t this be great by a fire in the middle of winter?), since eggplants are always available in the grocery stores these days, but will most definitely look forward to each August when my garden is overloaded with eggplants.
- Prep Time: 10min
- Cook Time: 1hr
For the simple tomato sauce:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 (28oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (reserve all of the juice) and chopped
Large pinch (about ½ tsp) Kosher salt
For the caponata:
2 medium eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup celery, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups simple tomato sauce
1 ½ tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
½ tsp anchovy paste
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 ½ tsp sugar
To make the sauce: In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and when it starts to sizzle, immediately stir in the tomatoes, all of the reserved juice, and the salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes. While the sauce simmers, start the caponata.
To make the caponata: Place eggplant in two large colanders and sprinkle about 2 tbsp salt over all of the eggplant. Toss to evenly distribute the salt. Allow the eggplant to drain for 15-20 minutes.
Once the eggplant has drained, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add enough eggplant to cover the bottom of the pot in one layer and sauté until golden on all sides. Continue cooking the eggplant in batches until all of it has browned, adding more olive oil with each batch or as needed. Once all of the eggplant has cooked, remove it from the pot and keep warm on the side.
In the same pot, warm 1 tbsp olive oil and sauté celery for 5 minutes. Add in the onions and cook the onions and celery until they are translucent and soft, about 7-10 minutes, adding a little more oil if needed. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the tomato sauce; cook for 7 minutes. Stir in the eggplant and celery and add the capers, anchovy paste, vinegar, and sugar.
Cook for 10-15 more minutes until the mixture is a thick stew-like consistency. Check for flavor, adding more salt, vinegar, or sugar as needed. Serve hot or at room temperature.
adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters