Caponata Siciliana, from the appetizer buffet to the dinner table. Happy Thanksgiving!

Caponata is a famous Sicilian dish, a distant cousin of the French Provence’s Ratatouille.

I have my base recipe from a friend who was married to a Sicilian and it is quite different from the recipes I see online: it doesn’t have pine nuts (but you can add those) and instead of celery, it uses zucchini, which I like better. I added a few touches of my own too, like substituting onions with shallots (I ALWAYS do that), sugar with honey and using much less of it, replacing the globe eggplant with the Chinese or Italian one (because it is sweeter), using fresh tomatoes, and adding my own home made plum brandy to the red wine vinegar (I use that in a lot of recipes too as you will notice in time). I also changed the preparation method: instead of sautéing all the veggies, I roast part of them together on a baking sheet; takes much less active time, and maybe more important: requires less oil because eggplant infamously soaks up oil like a sponge. 

Finally, while caponata is usually served on crostini as an appetizer or a dip with crusty baguette or pita chips, you can just as well serve it as a flavorful side dish. So for Thanksgiving our Caponata dip will travel from the appetizer table to the dinner table to be enjoyed alongside a crispy potato-leek tart (recipe to follow), green beans, and of course: the turkey! 

So try it out, make your own substitutions as you please, and enjoy! And feel free to post your own variations and/or comments!


Serves: 10 or more as antipasto or part of a buffet. 5 side dish servings.

Get ready:

  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil

  • 4 cups Japanese eggplant, rinsed and diced

  • 2 cups zucchini, rinsed and diced

  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced

  • 1 cup yellow bell pepper, diced

  • 1 cup shallots, diced 

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • ¼ cup plum brandy (or your own choice brandy or sherry)

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1 cup tomato sauce from fresh diced tomatoes, rosemary, oregano, lemon thyme, basil

  • 1 cup pitted black olives, diced

  • 1 cup pitted green olives, diced

  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)

  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)

  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Note: Dice all ingredients same size, approximately ¼-½ inch.  

Set? Go!

  • Preheat oven to 400o. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. 

  • Combine eggplant, peppers, and zucchini pieces with 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl until all vegetables are well coated. Spread vegetables in one layer on the baking sheet and bake on middle oven rack for 20-25 minutes or until silky soft and lightly colored. Stir after 15 minutes. If you dice the vegetables very small, 15 minutes will be enough. 

  • Transfer vegetables to a large bowl to cool.

  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat and sauté shallots until tender and translucent.

  • Drizzle shallots with honey and carefully add the vinegar and brandy. Let simmer for a minute; add tomato sauce, olives and capers. Cook down until slightly reduced and thickened. 

  • Transfer the shallot/tomato mixture to the bowl with roasted vegetables, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add pine nuts if using. Mix all ingredients to combine well. 

  • Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and chill for 1 or 2 days to allow the flavors to blend. 

  • Finish with chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley and serve at room temperature over crostini as an appetizer or as a side dish with roasted meat or fish. 

Making ahead has its advantages: it allows the flavors to blend for better taste AND it makes for an easy lunch: here, I toasted a few slices of bread, topped them with cooled down caponata, and shaved some Manchego cheese on top. Priceless!

Making ahead has its advantages: it allows the flavors to blend for better taste AND it makes for an easy lunch: here, I toasted a few slices of bread, topped them with cooled down caponata, and shaved some Manchego cheese on top. Priceless!

Happy read your comments!

Tips:

  • No need to peel the veggies when you are using organic produce.

  • If you use the regular globe eggplant, put the eggplant pieces in a bowl, sprinkle them liberally with salt and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and let them sit for 30 minutes. Transfer to a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth and squeeze out the bitter juices. Chinese and Italian eggplant are sweeter.

  • Always tastes better when made a day or two ahead. Keeps refrigerated for about a week, frozen for up to 6 months.

  • You can also sauté all vegetables separately in the skillet instead of roasting them; it will just take longer and you will need more oil. Make sure to end with the shallots so they can simmer with the tomatoes.

Posted on November 25, 2015 and filed under RECIPES.