Caponata is a classic Sicilian eggplant dish, somewhat like a sweet and sour version of ratatouille. If you haven’t done much cooking with eggplant before, be aware that it absorbs both flavors and oil – you may need to add additional olive oil (or water) if your pan starts to look dry before you add the tomatoes. This recipe also benefits from being made ahead of time and sitting for several hours or overnight before serving. It can be served hot or cold.
Like all classic recipes, there are thousands of variations on this dish; for instance, it is often made with celery and a touch of sugar. You could also add Greek olives, or substitute them for the capers if you don’t have (or don’t like) capers.
Though caponata is often served as a side dish atop bruschetta or crackers, you could also easily turn it into a main dish by serving it over rice or pasta. If you want some protein, you could add beans, feta cheese, or even some chicken sausage.
Caponata Recipe (vegan, gluten-free)
By Dawn Beckman
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1/2 hour
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large eggplant cut into 1/2 inch cubes (does not need to be peeled)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 or 2 sweet peppers of your choice, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tomatoes peeled*, cored, and seeded, then chopped or squished by hand- retain the juice!
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raisins – optional (for a sweet and sour flavor)
2 tablespoons capers
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
Toasted pine nuts – optional
Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add eggplant, peppers, onion, and garlic.
Saute until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, vinegar, capers, and raisins. Cover and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes until everything is very tender.
Season with salt and pepper and mix in the basil. Serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with pine nuts if desired.
Caponata keeps in the refrigerator for several days. It’s good on bread or crackers, or in a salad. It pairs well with cheese.
*Note: The easiest way to peel tomatoes is to put them in a bowl and cover with boiling water for a couple of minutes – the skins pop right off. If necessary, plunge them in a bowl of ice water to make them easier to handle.