A different take on the classic caponata, this one adds anchovies and capers to the mix and uses barely cooked tomatoes instead of tomato sauce.
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup salt-packed capers
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin oil, plus more for frying
- 2 pounds black-skinned eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
- 2 medium white onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup pitted, coarsely chopped green olives
- 24 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 celery stalks (preferably dark-green outer stalks), thinly sliced into half-moons
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- Thinly sliced fresh mint leaves, for garnish (optional)
Adapted from wsj.com
In a small bowl, combine vinegar and sugar and set aside, allowing sugar to dissolve. In another bowl, cover raisins with hot water and set aside to plump. Rinse capers under running water then transfer to another small bowl with a little water to soak.
In a large skillet over medium heat, bring about an inch of oil to 355 degrees, using a frying thermometer to monitor temperature. Fry 1/3 of eggplant, stirring, until golden and lightly crisp along edges, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper-towel-lined wire rack. Repeat with remaining eggplant, maintaining an oil temperature between 350 and 360 degrees.
Wipe skillet clean. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Once hot, add anchovies and cook gently, pressing anchovies into oil to make a cream. Add onions and bay leaves and cook, stirring, until onions are tender but not browned, about 15 minutes. Drain capers and raisins and add to skillet along with olives, tomatoes and celery. Stir and cook until tomatoes soften and start to release juices, no more than 5 minutes.
Stir in vinegar-sugar mixture and cook, just to meld flavors, not more than 5 minutes. Use a spatula to gently fold in reserved fried eggplant. Off heat, stir in pine nuts. Taste and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, if using.
Transfer capunatina to a serving bowl and let cool to room temperature. (Ideally, let rest a couple of hours to allow flavors to meld.) Before serving, garnish with mint, if using.