Summer Cooking: Caponata –

“It’s a dish where quality ingredients are key: good tomatoes and good eggplants to begin with, and good vinegar and good olive oil to finish. Try it while the summer is still warm and the vegetables are still at their most flavorful!”
Summer is here and with it, eggplants and tomatoes are in season. In Sicily and  other parts of the Mediterranean, with some variations, a good option for the use of these two is Caponata.
 
Caponata is described in different ways and can have several uses: a relish, a ragout, a side dish, a sort of salsa, or a superb spread on a crostini or on bread. Even when Caponata is a dish of simplicity, it’s surprising how the ingredients blend together and offer something so tasty and rewarding, more than the sum of its parts.

It’s a dish where quality ingredients are key: good tomatoes and good eggplants to begin with, and good vinegar and good olive oil to finish. Farmers markets are beaming right now with wonderful tomatoes and good looking eggplants, sometimes called aubergines in British English.
 
I’m going to offer the most typical Sicilian version of Caponata, which makes an excellent, uncommon appetizer for these hot days, since it can be served cold, or even better, luke-warm. It’s worth considering that the various flavors are more easily appreciated when Caponata is served luke warm.
 
The recipe:
  • 3 medium dark purple eggplants
  • 4 medium tomatoes of any kind
  • 1 cup of pitted olives (green and/or black olives will do)
  • ½ cup of pine nuts (walnuts are an option)
  • 1 medium onion (in my experience, sweet onions work well)
  • ¼ cup of capers
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 6 table spoons of white vinegar
  • Salt Pepper
  • A bunch of basil leaves
  • Olive oil

Prepare the eggplants so as to get the best out of them: most cooks suggest removing some of their bitterness by soaking them in salted water for 2-3 hours or by dicing and sprinkling it with dry salt, which will drain the bitter juices off. Pre-cooking is also a good option.

For this:

  • cut the eggplant in slices and brush them with olive oil and bake for 20
  • Blanch the celery for 5 minutes
  • Cut transversally (not lengthwise) into thin pieces
  • Boil the tomatoes for 4-5 minutes then peel and seed them
  • Chop the pitted olives in half
  • Chop the onion in thin slices
  • In a frying pan, sauté the onions until tender, but don’t let them brown
  • Add the celery and cook for another minute
  • Add the tomatoes, olives and capers.

Stir until ingredients mix and turn the heat off.

In a different pan:

  • Sauté the eggplants until tender (it’s about 6-7 minutes if you pre-cooked the eggplants and 15 minutes if not).
  • Add the eggplant and the celery to the other frying pan and stir on a very low heat for 5 minutes
  • Add salt and pepper to your taste
  • Add the vinegar, olive oil and pine nuts, stir once more with a wooden spoon and let it rest for 30
  • Garnish with chopped basil leaves.
  • Before serving, you can drizzle more olive on top.  

Salud! On behalf of the Pacific Sun Olive Oil team,

Pablo

Posted on Categories General, Recipes