Classic Sicilian Caponata
Caponata is a wonderful Sicilian snack made with sweet and sour roasted eggplant, onions and tomatoes. If you have a lot of eggplants to use up, I suggest making a big batch of caponata and canning or freezing the leftovers. You’ll thank me mid-winter when you open up a jar that tastes so redolent of the summer season.
Caponata with Grilled Crostini
- 1 cup olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
- 6 basil leaves, plus a couple extra leaves for garnish
- 3 garlic cloves
- 28 ounce can San Marzano diced tomatoes
- 6 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch batons
- 3 eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes, salted and drained well
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 cup green olives (green lugques work well), sliced
- 1/2 cup salt packed capers, rinsed and de-salinated
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup red pepper, micro diced
- 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, cut in matchsticks (alumettes)
- Bread, garlic & olive oil for serving
Place 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the basil and garlic. Saute briefly, do not brown.
Add the tomatoes and cook for 45 minutes, tomatoes will reduce to sauce consistency. Season and measure out 2 cups of sauce for the caponata. Freeze the rest.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Fill a separate bowl with ice water. Once your water is boiling, add celery and cook for 1 minute. Plunge it into a bowl of ice water.
Preheat a large skillet. Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil to the skillet and fry the eggplant cubes until browned. Do not stir; let the olive oil and the pan do its magic. Season with salt. Reserve eggplant.
Wipe out pan, add remaining 1/2 cup of oil and saute the onions until browned. Add celery, olives, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the eggplant.
Lower heat to the barest simmer you can. Cook for 10 minutes. Season and remove from heat. Stir in the red and yellow peppers. Add additional torn fresh basil leaves for garnish.
Let cool to room temperature. You can eat it at this point, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours to let the flavors meld together.
Slice a baguette. Drizzle baguette slices with olive oil on both sides. Using a preheated grill pan, grill the bread slices (you can also do it under the broiler). Serve with the caponata.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.