Classic Caponata From Southeastern Sicily
Select eggplants that are a deep dark purple-to-black color, with glossy skin and a hefty feel. So-called italian eggplants, which are longer and more slender than the classic variety, work well. When cut open, the insides should be a uniform creamy color; if the flesh is streaked with brown and the seeds are blackened, toss it on the compost heap and move on.
- 2 pounds black-skinned eggplant, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 medium red bell pepper
- 9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced, plus 2 large cloves, crushed
- 1/2 pound red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced into rounds
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery half-moons
- 15 pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
- 1 (16-ounce) can tomatoes, drained
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil, plus more to taste
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds
- 1/3 cup grated unsweetened chocolate (optional)
Adapted from wsj.com
In a colander, toss eggplant with several tablespoons of salt. Place colander in sink and let sit 30 minutes, allowing juices to drain. Rinse eggplant under water, then blot dry with a paper towel. Set aside.
Meanwhile, Roast Red Peppers:
Set pepper directly over a gas flame or under a broiler, turning with tongs, until blackened and blistered all over, then place inside a paper bag. Let rest 30 minutes, then remove pepper from bag. Rub off blackened skin, then slice flesh into thin strips, removing and discarding seeds and white inner membranes.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss eggplant with 4 tablespoons oil, then spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast eggplant, turning once, until crisp and golden, 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine vinegar and sugar, and set aside to let sugar dissolve.
In a large skillet over low heat, sauté sliced garlic, onions and carrots in 3 tablespoons oil, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and carrots are cooked through, about 20 minutes. (Be careful not to let onions brown.) Stir in pepper strips, celery and olives, and continue cooking gently over low heat until celery just barely cooks, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, Make Tomato Sauce:
In small saucepan over low heat, sauté crushed garlic in 2 tablespoons oil until garlic has softened. Stir in drained tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have dissolved into a thick sauce, about 20 minutes. (If necessary, use a hand blender to purée tomatoes until smooth.) Stir in reserved vinegar-sugar mixture.
Stir tomato sauce into sautéed vegetables. Gently fold in roasted eggplant, being careful not to smash vegetables. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Let rest, covered, several hours to allow flavors to meld. (Caponata can be made up to one week in advance. Store in refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.) Just before serving, garnish with almonds and chocolate, if using.