Caponata is a magnificent Sicilian dish made from many different vegetables cooked separately and then blended together. Caponata probably originated in Spain. The name stems from the Catalan word caponada, which refers to a similar relish. The word appeared for the first time in 1709.
Several versions of Caponata have emerged that add fish or cheese. I still like my mother’s fully vegetarian recipes the best. My mother wouldn’t let us touch the dish until the next day. She knew that the flavors of the different vegetables would blend together, and it would taste absolutely delicious.
Caponata is best served lukewarm as an appetizer or a side dish. Caponata can be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator for several days.
1 lb (450 g) celery
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 lb (225 g) onion, diced
crushed red pepper
1 cup (230 g) tomatoes, puréed in a blender
4 – 5 basil leaves
6 oz (180 gr) Sicilian green olives, pitted
4 tablespoons capers in salt, rinsed and drained
2 lbs (900 g) eggplant
2 tablespoons sugar
3 – 4 tablespoons vinegar
Quantity of vinegar may vary depending on its strength
In a small saucepan, boil the celery sticks for about 6 – 7 minutes or until tender. Cut the celery into small dice.
In a medium-size saucepan, pour the extra-virgin olive oil, and add the garlic, onion, and a generous amount of red pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat, or until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the tomatoes,
olives, capers, and freshly ground black pepper
Cook for about 10 minutes and set it aside.
Cut the eggplant into approximately 3/4 - inch (2 – 3 cm) dice. In a large frying pan, heat the oil to frying temperature. Add the eggplant.
Fry the eggplant gently for about 8 – 10 minutes, until light brown. Add salt.
Place the pan with the tomato back on the stove on medium heat. Combine the eggplant.
Add the celery. Stir to blend the ingredients together.
In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and the vinegar together.
Stir the sugar and vinegar mix into the pan. Cover the saucepan, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the caponata thickens.
Adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Capers can be very salty, so taste the caponata and add salt only if necessary.
Set it aside in a bowl for at least one day. Serve lukewarm.
For a nice presentation, transfer the caponata to a bowl and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the caponata from the refrigerator one hour before serving. Turn the caponata upside down on a dish, decorate with wedges of hard boiled eggs, orange slices, and basil leaves.