A dear Italian friend once brought me a hostess gift of homemade caponata, which caught my imagination. Caponata is a Sicilian relish usually made with eggplant and other vegetables. The addition of vinegar, sugar and raisins gives this relish a sweet–sour flavor known as “agrodolce” in Italian. Anchovies and capers add a salty dimension. It may be used as a starter to top bruschetta and crostini or as a dip for fresh vegetables. It also may be used as a complement for fish, poultry or meats. The flavor improves if allowed to permeate overnight in the refrigerator. Whatever it accompanies, it is sure to enhance.
8 appetizer servings
1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch dice (about 1 ½ pounds)
Sea salt as needed
Extra virgin olive oil as needed
1 ½ cups red onions cut into ¼ inch dice
1 sweet red pepper cut into ½ inch dice (about 6 ounces)
1 sweet yellow pepper cut into ¼ inch dice (about 6 ounces)
1 cup celery cut into ¼ inch dice
1 fennel bulb, tops removed, cut into ¼ inch dice (about 7 ounces)
1 large or 2 small zucchini cut into ½ inch dice (about 8 ounces)⅓ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
4 large roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into ½ inch dice (about 14 ounces)
4 anchovy fillets, patted dry, minced
2 tablespoons double concentrate tomato paste
¼ cup capers, rinsed and pat dry
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup basil chopped
¼ cup mint chopped
Sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and red wine vinegar to taste
- Generously toss the eggplant with sea salt. Place in a nonreactive colander for thirty minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Toss the eggplant with olive oil. Place on a lined baking sheet pan. Roast until soft, about fifteen to twenty minutes. Remove from oven and reserve.
- Heat a nonreactive Dutch oven and add with olive oil. When the oil shimmers, sauté the onions and peppers until soft, stirring often, about eight to ten minutes. Taste, think, transform with salt.
- Add the celery, fennel and zucchini. Sauté about five to six minutes until all are soft.
- Deglaze with the vinegar and sugar.
- Stir in the eggplant, tomatoes, anchovies, tomato paste, capers, raisins, basil and mint.
- Taste, Think, Transform with salt, pepper and vinegar.