Caponata is an Italian eggplant dish. Serve at room temperature with crackers or bread as an appetizer, as a vegetable side dish, as a vegetarian entree, or it can be used for tapas.
I like to spoon it onto bread that has been lightly brushed with melted buttered or olive oil, sprinkled lightly with garlic powder, fresh or dried oregano and basil, Parmesan cheese, and then oven toasted.
6 small or 4 medium eggplants (small recommended)
2 teaspoons salt
3 to 4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow or sweet onion, thinly sliced slivers
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
1 lb tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 to 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon of capers
10 to 15 choice of green or black olives, pitted and sliced (traditionally made with green olives)
2 to 3 celery sticks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 to 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, to taste
2 teaspoons to 2 Tablespoons sugar, to taste
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon oregano (or more), to taste
1 Tablespoon basil (or more), to taste
fresh parsley for garnish
Wash the eggplants. Leave the skin on — unless the eggplant skins are very tough (particularly if eggplants are older, larger ones).
Cube the eggplant into bite sized pieces. Place in strainer and toss with salt.
Rest in strainer over a bowl for 30 minutes to remove excess juices.
Rinse off the salt. Drain the eggplant pieces well and let rest on lint free kitchen towel or a double layer of paper towels for about about ten to twenty minutes then pat if needed to remove any remaining water.
Fry the eggplant pieces in 2 Tbsp hot olive oil until brown and tender. Set aside to drain on a fresh double layer of paper towels.
Add another 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil to pan. Saute the celery until tender (about 10 minutes).
Add onions and minced garlic. Fry until onions are caramelized (golden in color).
Add the tomatoes and paste.
Season with fresh oregano and basil, then add cracked black pepper to taste.
Leave to simmer gently for 15 minutes.
In a saucepan, bring about 1/4 cup of water to a strong boil then remove from heat.
Add the capers to the boiled water. Blanch the capers for 1 minute. This will remove some of the excess brine to prevent the dish from becoming excessively salty.
Drain them well and add the capers and olives to the simmering tomato mixture.
Pour in the vinegar and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Leave to simmer gently for another 20 to 30 minutes for the sauce to reduce.
Remove from the heat.
Taste test and, if needed, add additional basil, oregano and pepper to taste.
Stir in the eggplant then stir to combine well.
Let the caponata stand for 2 to 4 hours (or more) at room temperature. The longer it is permitted to marinade, the better that the flavors infuse throughout as well as are absorbed by the eggplant.
If possible, it will be even better — if after allowed to sit for 4 hours — it is then covered and refrigerated until the next day. Remove and allow to warm to room temperature prior to serving.
Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve at room temperature with crackers or bread.
Refrigerate any left overs, covered, for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.