Caponata and I have a beautiful relationship. I first learned about it when I was doing food research before a trip to Sicily in summer 2014. After reading about it, I was so excited to taste this traditional Sicilian dish made up of eggplant, tomato, and other cooked veggies. While I was in Palermo, I made a point of getting caponata at every restaurant that I went to in order to get a feel for the flavors and in order to try to recreate them at home some day. Since then, I have been trying different recipes, sometimes tweaking them along the way, in a quest to find a home-made version of caponata that would take me back to that summer.
My love has come along.
If you enjoy cooking and you’re not familiar with Smitten Kitchen, you sleeping under a rock. Deb Perelman’s recipes are absolutely amazing, always delivering flavor and eliciting joy. She’s had the blog for over nine years (and I know this because she links back to recipes from previous years in every post!) so there is SO much to try. SO much yumminess to devour. I’ve tried a number of recipes both from the blog and her book and they never fail to impress my tastebuds and make my tummy smile.
This week, I finally tried her caponata recipe and it is, hands down, the best of any that I’ve tried so far. Beautiful balancing of savory and sweet flavors. Wonderful texture. Super simple. I made two simple modifications to her original recipe: (1) Instead of table sugar, I used 1 TBL of raw honey. (2) Instead of frying the eggplant, I roasted them in the oven. Here is the recipe as I made it:
- 2 pound eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
- 1 large sweet onion
- 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste + 1/4 cup water combined
- 1 cup diced tomato (I used Glen Mur Organic brand with onion and basil)
- 1 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1⁄2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1⁄2 cup golden raisins
- 1⁄4 cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
- 1 TBL honey
- 1⁄2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Dice the eggplant into bite size pieces and place on parchment lined baking sheet.
- Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Once oven is hot, bake eggplant for 30 minutes, flipping eggplant and rotating pan about half way through.
- While the eggplant is baking heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
- Add chopped onion and celery and sauté for about ten minutes until starting to soften.
- Once onions and celery are soft, reduce the heat to medium, and add tomato paste + water combination.
- Let simmer for 5-10 minutes and then add olives, white wine vinegar, raisins, capers, and honey to the pan and combine.
- Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Once eggplant is done, add to the pan and stir.
- Turn off heat and add basil and pine nuts.
- This dish is traditionally served cold or at room temperature but it's also delicious hot. I also recommend making this advance and letting the flavors settle in the fridge. It's even tastier on the second day.