With farmer’s markets and summer gardens overflowing with eggplant and zucchini, fall is a perfect time to make a Sicilian favorite: Caponata. Caponata is an eggplant stew that is chock full of assorted vegetables and condiments.
Nutritionists tell us that we should eat seven different colors of foods every day to get the maximum nutritional value from our meals. Caponata provides that rainbow of foods and is healthy, delicious and versatile.
Sicily in particular is known for its use of Agrodulce, a sweet and sour flavor created by reducing vinegar and sugar to add a delicious element to Sicilian food. Well prepared caponata is brimming with Agrodulce, making it a great side dish with meat, chicken and even eggs. Caponata is also a perfect pairing with cheeses or simply spread on bread and served with a glass of wine.
It is also excellent served hot over rigatoni or pappardella. Since it is vegetarian and has a fermented element with the vinegar and sugar combination, it can last in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
The following is my favorite recipe for Caponata, but feel free to personalize it by adding olives or other vegetables to your own taste.
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 large red onion, diced
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 fennel bulb, diced
- 4 ribs celery, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- 1/2 cup water or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/2 bunch basil or mint, cut into chiffonade
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with olive oil and salt, to taste. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast until the eggplant about 15 to 20 minutes. Reserve.
Coat a wide pot with olive oil. Toss in the onion and cayenne and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft for about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the fennel, celery and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, add salt to taste, and cook until the zucchini and all the veggies are soft and start to come together as a stew. Toss in the eggplant, 1/2 cup of broth or water and the tomato paste. Cook until the water has evaporated. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a small bowl and add it to the mixture. Stir in the raisins, capers, pine nuts and herbs. Cook for another few minutes to incorporate all the ingredients. Cool and serve or refrigerate, preferably in glass. Enjoy!
RAISE YOUR SPIRITS AND GET THE DISH!