Sicilian caponata

Sicilian caponata: This recipes comes from one of our enthusiastic ‘pasta-peeps’, Kathy and has been adapted from Coming Home to Sicily by Fabrizia Lanza.  Thank you sooooooo much, Kathy 🙂

Some might ask about salting the eggplant, which I don’t usually do because I buy smaller eggplants and never had a problem with bitterness. Some in the food world think that salting eggplant isn’t done anymore because eggplants are no longer bitter.

Sicilian caponata is meant to be a touch sweet, a tad vinegary. I added more than Fabrizia but since vinegars can vary in strength, you can taste and add more later in the game. The original recipe made quite a bit of caponata and and I reduced the recipe by half. (Some might say you can never have enough caponata, but because of the concentrated flavors, a little goes a long way.) It keeps very well in the refrigerator, so if you wish you can double the recipe.

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Sicilian caponata – serves 6

  • 3 branches celery (tough outer strings removed, if necessary)
  • Vegetable oil (or olive oil), about 1 cup (250ml), for frying
  • 1 pound (450g) eggplant
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (60g) green olives, pitted and very coarsely chopped (about in thirds)
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) capers, rinsed and squeezed dry
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225ml) best-quality tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons (40ml) wine vinegar, red or white
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey (or sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley or mint, for serving
  1. Remove the leaves from the celery branches and cut the branches into 1/2-inch (1,25cm) thick slices. Bring a medium sized pot of water to a low boil and simmer the celery until crisp-tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and rinse well in cold water. Set aside.
  2. Trim the stems off eggplant and cut into 1-inch (3cm) pieces.
  3. In a large, heavy-duty skillet (I used cast iron) heat 3/4-inch (2cm) of vegetable or olive oil. Cook the eggplant in batches, not crowding too many into the pan at once, turning them occasionally, until they are browned all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season with salt, then fry the rest of the eggplant in batches, seasoning them with salt as you remove them from the oil. You’ll likely need to add more oil to the pan as you go. (I ended up using a total of 1 cup/250ml.)
  4. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until wilted and starting to turn golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the parboiled celery, olives, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, honey, and red pepper flakes. Let come to a low boil then add the eggplant.
  5. Cook the mixture at a simmer, stirring carefully so as not to mash up the eggplant pieces, for 3 to 4 minutes. Taste, and add additional salt if desired, and perhaps another splash of vinegar. Remove from heat and transfer the caponata to a large, shallow serving platter or bowl and cool.
  6. Serving and storage: Caponata is best served the next day, so the ingredients and flavors have time to meld. Top with chopped flat leaf parsley or fresh mint. It also makes a nice topping for crostini: Pile it atop grilled bread that’s been brushed with olive oil before grilling, or let the bread cool and smear it with fresh ricotta or another spreadable cheese, then top with caponata. Fabrizia serves it with quartered hard-boiled eggs.
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