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How to Make Classic Sicilian Caponata from Scratch

by Christopher Atwood


Caponata is a savory side from the island of Sicily. It’s a sweet and sour veggie medley -- marrying caramelized eggplant, salty olives, crisp celery and tangy tomato. This contorno is one of the most popular foods in Sicily. Whether spooned on crusty bread or eaten on its own, caponata is a tantalizingly mix of heat-sweetened vegetables and tart flavors.

If you love cooking Italian food, you’ll need to add this dish to your recipe repertoire.

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Traditional caponata is made by frying the eggplant in a bath of sizzling oil until golden-brown.  While undeniably deliziosa, the end result can be a bit. . . greasy. Thankfully, the same tastiness can be achieved without buckets olive oil. You simply braise the veggies – slowly – in an extra hot oven.

If you can’t travel to Italy, you can savor a taste of Sicily in your own cucina (kitchen) by whipping up a batch of caponata.  Below, you’ll find our take on this classic Sicilian recipe.

You chop. You toss. You bake. You yum. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 3 large bell peppers -- red or yellow, diced
  • 1 celery rib, cut into ¼ or ½  inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 Italian eggplants, cubed (16 ounces)
  • 2 tbs. salted capers
  • 1/2 cup of pitted green olives
  • 2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (12 ounces)
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of toasted almonds or pine nuts

INSTRUCTIONSeggplant

Preheat the oven to 475F. Dice and chop the onion, eggplant and bell pepper -- tossing then with olive oil, olives, and capers. When mixed together, spread the vegetables on one or two baking sheets (lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil). Cook in the oven 25-35 minutes – until the eggplant and peppers are  beginning to caramelize. Halfway through cooking, stir the vegetables once to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.  Once out of the oven, reduce the heat to 425F.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and mix together with the tomatoes, celery, carrot, salt, sugar and vinegar. Braise the mixture again on baking sheets for 60 minutes in the oven.  After 30 minutes, stir vegetables with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking.  By the end, the liquid will condense and the vegetables will turn pliant and sweet. Before serving, toss in the toasted almonds and sprinkle with fresh-ground pepper.

Note on serving: Caponata will taste even better the day after -- once your ingredients have had time to mingle and marry. You can brighten it with the addition of chopped Italian parsley or fresh mint. It’s especially yummy slathered atop a slice of grilled crusty bread.

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