Caponata Sicilian Style

Eggplant

Caponata is the Italian version of the French ratatouille, a stew of eggplant and other vegetables.  Generally both sweet and sour, it almost always has tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, and may also contain anchovies, capers and olives, or in the south of Italy, raisins and pignoli nuts.  I’ve even run across versions that had potatoes.

Caponata is served at room temperature, and can be eaten alone, as a salad, but I know folks who serve it on crusty Italian bread, or over baby greens.  This is a dish that is best made the day before you plan to serve it, allowing for the flavors to meld overnight.

1  medium eggplant ( about 1-1/2 pounds)
1-1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup pine nuts
3-4 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery rib, diced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 TBS tomato paste, mixed with ¼ cup of water
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup golden raisins
¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained
¼ cup. white wine vinegar
2 TBS sugar

Cut eggplant into half inch cubes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place in a colander to drain for 30-60 minutes.  Pat dry with paper towels.

While the eggplant is draining, toast the pine nuts over a large fry pan over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, watch to ensure they don’t burn. You will need to stir frequently. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add olive oil to the fry pan and turn heat up to medium. Add the eggplant and sauté until softened and browned, about five minutes.  Add more olive oil if needed.  Remove from pan.

Add the diced onion, carrots, and celery, salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes.  Add tomato paste mixture and cook until most of the moisture has evaporated.  Add diced tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes.

Sir in the raisins, capers, vinegar and sugar and continue cooking, about another ten minutes.  Add up to ¼ cup of water if needed.

Add the eggplant and stew an additional five minutes until it thickens.  Remove from heat and add pine nuts. Cool and refrigerate over night.

Bring it back to room temperature before serving.  Serve over greens, plain or on toasted Italian bread.

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