Caponata

1 Sep

As I mentioned, I was in Sicily on vacation for the better part of August. My husband’s parents live there, and have a great five-unit place right across from the beach on the Southeastern coast. We had our own little apartment with a full kitchen and a washing machine (unfortunately, dryers are rare!), so I was able to cook a lot, and made a lot of Sicilian dishes while I was there. My mother-in-law stocked our fridge before we arrived–so I had all the ingredients to make classic caponata. (This cracked me up, since many of the ingredients–like salted capers–would almost surely require a special trip to the market in the US, but here, they’re staples. That’s how you know you’re cooking the right things while abroad!)

I used this recipe from Saveur as a guide, but substituted as needed with what I had on hand. The results were delicious–and every Sicilian lady who tasted it was hounding me for the recipe–the best compliment I can think of! In fact, I’m putting this recipe up with the metric conversions so I can share it with our family and friends there. For a US version, use the Saveur recipe, which is just perfect!

Caponata
olive oil for frying, about 750 ml
1 kilo eggplant (melanzane), cut into cubes
1 large cipolla di Giarratana (or yellow onion), chopped
1 rib celery (sedano), finely chopped
Sea salt
Few spoonfuls preserved, salted tomato “paste” (this is a homemade ingredient)
250 ml homemade sugo di pomodoro
170 grams green olives (olive verdi), pitted and roughly chopped
125 ml white wine vinegar (aceto di vino bianco)
80 grams golden raisins (uva sultanina)
About 45 grams salt-packed capers (capperi soto sale), rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped
Several spoonfuls of sugar (zucchero), to taste
25 grams finely grated unsweetened chocolate (cioccolato senza zucchero)
Finely shredded basil (basilico)
25 grams pignoli

1. Heat oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add eggplant and fry, turning occasionally, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer eggplant to a paper towel-lined plate; sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside. Pour off all but 200 ml oil, and reserve for another use. Return skillet to heat, add onions and celery, and season with salt; cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and beginning to brown, 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until caramelized. Add sugo di pomodoro and continue cooking for 10 minutes (add some water if it starts to look too dry.) Reduce to medium-low and stir in olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, sugar, and chocolate, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl with eggplant, along with basil and pine nuts, and mix together. Adjust seasoning and let cool to room temperature before serving.

This recipe is adapted from Saveur.

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