This is one of the most delicious vegetable sides that the Italians have ever created ... a suitable side dish with a plate of pasta and chicken piccata, a tangy starter with a glass of good red wine and some good Ciabatta toasts, or a topper for a plate of sauteed zucchini and summer squash. We had it as a contribution to the hors d'oeurves buffet that my sister-in-law hosted for New Years Eve and I am knoshing the leftovers for a light lunch today.
Caponata is one of those easy recipes that, when the best of ingredients are used, yields such a rich smooth vegetable dish that it feels very 'gourmet'. It takes a couple hours to put together and then, in my opinion, needs to be set aside in a cool place to let the juices and olive oil meld to make the smooth creamy finish on the sauce that surrounds the eggplant, olives, and capers.
The key to the dish is having the freshest eggplant, a very good batch of green olives that are firm and not too salty, excellent olive oil, and a good quality red wine vinegar. Because the dish has a sweet and sour aspect to it, I urge everyone making it to start small with both the red wine vinegar and sugar measures and taste frequently to get the dish to their individual preference.
That being said, here is the recipe that I followed. I found it a few months ago on The Italian Dish website ... it is a keeper recipe and one that I know I will be making over and over. Everytime I've made it I have had it served with different items. With linguine fini and a plate of chicken piccata, with grilled swordfish fillets and a green salad, over sauteed summer squash and onions. On top of creamy cheesy polenta. I plan to make crusty fried cod chunks this week and have the leftover Caponata over top . There are just so many ways to enjoy this dish.
I hope you enjoy it!
Happy New Year!
2 tbsp. Kosher salt
¼ c. fine quality extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tbsp more for roasting the eggplant
1 large onion, chopped
1 ½ c. San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
½ c. fresh green olives that come in an herbed olive oil, pitted and chopped
½ c. celery, chopped
3 tbsp. capers, well-rinsed
¼ c. good quality red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh basil leaves
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
Making the Dish:
- Pre heat an oven to 400 °F and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
- Toss the prepared eggplant with 2 tbsp. of Kosher salt and place it in a colander. Place the colander in a sink and let the eggplant rest for 1 hour.
- Toss the eggplant (don’t rinse the salt off the eggplant) with 2 tbsp. of olive oil and arrange in one layer on the cookie sheet.
- Roast for about 25 minutes, tossing it gently after 15 minutes.
- While the eggplant is roasting, place ¼ c. olive oil and the onion in a deep fry pan and sauté until the onion is softened and glistens.
- Add the tomatoes and crush them with your hands. Stir them in well, adding the olives, capers, and celery.
- Begin adding the red wine vinegar and sugar a teaspoon at a time until the sauce tastes right to your palate.
- Lower the heat and simmer the pan for 15 minutes.
- When the eggplant has roasted, turn it gently into the sauce and stir to combine without breaking the eggplant up too much.
- Add pepper to taste. Turn the heat off and cover the pan. Let the Caponata rest for at least an hour to allow the flavours to meld.
- Gently re-heat the Caponata and serve with crusty bread and the hard- boiled eggs or beside grilled chicken or fish or as a cocktail small plate with Ciabatta toasts.