This is one of those dishes that comes alive the moment the ingredients hit the pan. The scent wafting through my kitchen has everyone feeling hungry.
Garlic and tomatoes with red wine vinegar smell delicious, but when the capers and olives are added, a whole new element develops in this dish. By frying the eggplant prior to adding it to the pot, the process sweetens the eggplant, removes any bitterness and brings a creaminess to the mixture. All combined, this is not your basic pasta sauce. It is a symphony of fresh vegetables, acidity, salt, herbs and layers of perfectly-balanced flavor.
All these little bits of flavor are the base of this delicious dish.
This, in and of itself, could be the end of the story. It’s wonderful on fish, chicken, pasta, rice or on a spoon directly out of the pot. Today, however, we’re making a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough with Prosciutto, sliced provolone, pesto, and caponata.
Yes, it’s amazing!!
- 2 medium-sized eggplant, cut into large chunks
- 2 zucchini, chopped
- 1 large yellow pepper, chopped
- 2 tbsp. capers, drained
- 1 dozen olives, pitted
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1-14 oz. can chopped tomato
- 1 -14 oz. can tomato puree
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- handful of basil leaves chopped
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- chopped parsley, to garnish
*Note: Caponata calls for two stalks of finely chopped celery to be added with the onion. My family prefers to leave this out.
- Lightly season eggplants with salt, set aside.
- In a large pan, heat olive oil then pan-fry eggplants until they turn golden on each side. Remove the eggplants from the pan and set aside.
- Add additional olive oil to the pan, then sauté garlic, and onion.
- Add the oregano, basil, red wine vinegar, capers, olives and chopped and pureed tomato. Bring to a boil then add fried eggplant, yellow pepper and zucchini and simmer for 15 minutes on low heat. You might need to add a bit of water if it dries out while simmering.
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then garnish with chopped parsley.
- At this point it is ready to eat; however, I usually leave it on a slow simmer for about an hour to reduce it to a thick paste and further combine the flavors.
- Today I’m using it on a grilled cheese sandwich. If you can keep your family from eating it all with a fork right out of the pot and you manage to have leftovers, or you were smart enough to double or triple this recipe…it is delicious on pasta or rice. It is also wonderful on fish or chicken. I often cut up a store-roasted chicken and add it to the caponata then serve it over rigatoni. It is also good on crostini as an appetizer.
*Note: Caponata freezes well, so I usually make two or three batches and enjoy it any time for a quick and easy dinner.