Eggplant Caponata

I know what you’re thinking. Seriously? More eggplant??

Eggplants are like bay leaves. I use them all the time but don’t really know what they taste like. As long as they’re in season, they’re on our counter.

All summer, I’ve wanted to make caponata, a Sicilian dish that’s usually served as a salad or relish. There are a gazillion variations of this, but generally it’s comprised of eggplant, onion, tomatoes, capers, olives, nuts, anchovies, vinegar and olive oil (I skip the anchovies). It’s one of those foods that improves with time. You make it, put it in the refrigerator for 8 hours or more, and then serve.

This one has almonds and pine nuts, which lend a nice crunch. The flavors are strong. I prefer it on toasted bread, but you could eat it as a relish or salad. Serve at room temperature.

Eggplant Caponata
Earth to Table

2 large eggplants (about 2 1/2 pounds total), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 T kosher salt
1 1/2 olive oil, divided
6 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 bulb fennel, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup drained green olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup drained capers
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 T granulated sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup whole raw almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup minced fresh basil

In a colander set over a bowl, toss eggplants with salt. Let drain for 1 hour. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels.

In a large, deep pot, heat 1 cup of the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add celery and fennel, sate for 1 minute. Add zucchini and saute for 3 minutes. Add eggplant and saute until vegetables are golden brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Using a sloted spoon, transfer vegetables to a plate lined with paper towels; set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pot and saute garlic and onion over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, olives, capers, raisins, pine nuts, vinegar, and sugar; cook for 10 minutes. Add reserved vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a wide, shallow dish and let cool for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. (Make ahead: Refrigerate for up to 1 week.)

About one hour before serving, remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Serve sprinkled with almonds and basil.

Serves 8.


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