Introduction: How to Prepare Scrumptious Caponata

Full printable recipe will be on the last step.

According to Wikipedia: Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant relish made from chopped fried vegetables (mostly eggplants and peppers), seasoned with celery, olives and capers, in a bittersweet sauce. Variations of the ingredients exist: the "classical" recipes on the whole island number well over 37.

Today, caponata is typically used as a side dish or appetizer, but, since the 1700s, it has sometimes been used as a main course.

Caponata is an example of the eggplant-tomato combination that is found in many cuisines, such as the different moussaka found in the eastern Mediterranean.

The etymology of the name is not entirely known and evokes some controversy: it comes from either the "capon" or from the "caupone", the sailors' taverns.


In any case, it is a delicious and relatively simple dish to prepare, and it tastes great hot or cold. I find it tastes better the day after you make it, especially for a cold and served with fresh water-packed mozzarella and ciabatta bread.

Step 1: Gather the Goods

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium-large eggplant, cut into (approx) 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I use a mix or red/orange/yellow when available)
1 medium onion, chopped
1(14oz) can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon drained capers (you can use olives in place of or in addition to capers)
1 fat garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Salt and pepper

SERVING SUGGESTION INGREDIENTS:
1 loaf ciabatta bread, or other delicious rustic bread
Generous slices of fresh (water-packed) mozzarella (I use either one or two packages, depending upon how gluttonous I and my friends feel)

Step 2: Salt and Sweat the Eggplant

First cut up the eggplant and spread it out in a single layer over a clean flour cloth or a few layers of paper towel. Sprinkle it with salt all over (using about one rounded teaspoon to cover each eggplant), toss it around to coat all sides lightly and spread evenly again in one layer, then cover with another layer or two of towel.

Let it "sweat" for at least fifteen minutes. Don't worry; most of this salt will not go into the final dish.

Step 3: Dice, Chop, Measure Etc

Meanwhile, dice the onion and chop the celery and peppers to approx 1/2-inch pieces.
Measure out your other ingredients and set it all up (mise en place) while you wait for the eggplant to sweat.

Step 4: (mise En Place)

Chefs on cooking shows make everything look so easy and fast! This is a large part of it. "Mise en place" is a French term meaning "everything in its place". Arranging a mise en place just means that you measure out all of your ingredients and chop, grate or slice all veggies etc and arrange them in the order that they will be used or at least in a way that makes using them in order most convenient--before you begin cooking. It's like having an assistant in the kitchen with you even when you are alone. This preparation makes your culinary experience much more smooth and pleasant, and allows you to socialize more while cooking, which is always a joy!

Step 5: Wring Out Water (and Salt) From Eggplant

Cover eggplant with more towel and press it down, then roll it up and SQUEEZE out the water and salt as much as you can. Don't be gentle, at this stage the eggplant is simply a sponge, and the less water it has in it the better! It will plump up again and be saturated with deliciousness from all the other ingredients.

Step 6: Heat Oil

Once all your ingredients are laid out, heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat--careful not to get it too hot, olive oil scorches at a relatively low temperature.

Step 7: Add Celery

Add the celery to the hot oil and fry about 2 minutes.

Step 8: Add Onion and Eggplant

Add half the onion and the eggplant and fry about 2 more minutes. Season with salt (about 1/2 tsp should be fine for one eggplant) and fresh ground black pepper, if available.

Step 9: Add Bell Peppers

Add the bell peppers and cook about 3 more minutes.

Step 10: Add Remaining Onion and Garlic

Add the remaining onion and the garlic. Cook until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.

Step 11: Add Tomatoes, Raisins and Spice

Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano. Season again with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes.

Step 12: Final Flavoring

Add the vinegar, sugar, and capers (and/or olives). Season once more with salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve hot over pasta, as an open-faced warm sandwich over ciabatta bread or other toast, with fresh mozzarella if desired, or chill and serve the next day. I find this always taste better the next day, especially chilled.

Serves six as a main course. More like ten as a side or starter.

Please enjoy!

Rupa

Step 13: FULL RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS (for Easier Printing)

INGREDIENTS for Caponata
1 medium-large eggplant, cut into (approx) 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I use a mix or red/orange/yellow when available)
1 medium onion, chopped
1(14oz) can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon drained capers (you can use olives in place of or in addition to capers)
1 fat garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Salt and pepper
1 loaf ciabatta bread, or other delicious rustic bread
Generous slices of fresh (water-packed) mozzarella (I use either one or two packages, depending upon how gluttonous I and my friends feel)

METHOD

First cut up the eggplant and spread it out in a single layer over a clean flour cloth or a few layers of paper towel. Sprinkle it with salt all over (using about one rounded teaspoon to cover each eggplant), toss it around to coat all sides lightly and let it "sweat" for at least fifteen minutes. Don't worry; most of this salt will not go into the final dish.


Meanwhile, dice the onion and chop the celery and peppers to approx 1/2-inch pieces.
Measure out your other ingredients while you wait for the eggplant to sweat.

Cover eggplant with more towel and press it down, then roll it up and SQUEEZE out the water and salt as much as you can. Don't be gentle, at this stage the eggplant is simply a sponge, and the less water it has in it the better! It will plump up again and be saturated with deliciousness from all the other ingredients.

Once all your ingredients are laid out, heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat--careful not to get it too hot, olive oil scorches at a relatively low temperature.

Add the celery and fry about 2 minutes. Add half the onion and the eggplant and fry about 2 more minutes. Season with salt (about 1/2 tsp should be fine for one eggplant). Add the bell peppers and cook about 5 minutes. Add the remaining onion and fry until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano. Season again with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar, and capers (and/or olives). Season once more with salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve hot over pasta, as an open-faced warm sandwich over ciabatta bread or other toast, with fresh mozzarella if desired, or chill and serve the next day. I find this always taste better the next day so I usually try to make a double batch so there are plenty of left-overs to share.

Comments

author
jeanne.hatcher (author)2014-10-27

Thanks for the step by step instructions. I found another great caponata recipe, but I was terribly unsure about sweating/pealing the eggplant. Thanks!

author
lholdeman thomas (author)2012-07-15

Just made this and it is/was awesome, but you never say when to add the garlic. I did it at the end, but Im sure it should have been done with the onions or tomatoes.

author
lordhazzard (author)2011-08-06

Just made this, i also added some zucchini. Tasted great!

author
sobruno38@msn.com (author)2010-11-14

rupamagic. Thank you for the recipe. My Aunt used to make it with olives in it. I thought I'd never find the recipe. Have you ever grown the long thin Asian eggplants? Baked and diced, they make a great salad with tomatos and olive oil and Italian Vinegar.

author
Culturedropout (author)2008-06-09

Wow - you're making me hungry. Serving it on ciabatta bread sounds like a great idea. Whenever we end up with an eggplant, we sort of look at each other and say, "Okay - what do you do with eggplant?" Now we'll have something new to try. Thanks.

author
rupamagic (author)Culturedropout2008-06-10

Glad to be of inspiration. Let me know how it turns out!

author
Brennn10 (author)2008-06-09

Rupamagic with another great dish!

author
rupamagic (author)Brennn102008-06-09

Aww, shucks! Thanks, hope you enjoy it!

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