In this Sicilian Caponata recipe, eggplant is cooked with celery, tomatoes, olives and capers for a delicious condiment served warm or cold. It can serve as an appetizer or as a side dish paired with grilled chicken or fish.
- 1 large eggplant
- 6 – 7 T good olive oil, more if needed
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, from the inner tender stalks, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound best quality ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped, or 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 c capers, rinsed and drained
- 1/3 c Sicilian green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 T sugar or to taste
- 3 T white wine vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Optional: a pinch or two of chili flakes
Peel eggplant, leaving some strips of peel. Cut eggplant in half, then create spears. Cut the spears into approximately 1-inch cubes and spread on a kitchen towel. Sprinkle eggplant with Kosher salt, then cover with a second towel. Weight with a baking sheet topped with 2 to 3 large cans for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Cook the onion, stirring, until it turns pale, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and cook for about 10 minutes until onions and celery are golden brown. Lower heat to medium and add olives, capers, garlic and 2 tablespoons of sugar and optional pinch or two of chili flakes. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Then stir in vinegar and tomatoes.
Cover pan, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is acidic, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar to taste and mix into sauce. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.
Rinse eggplant in a colander under running cold water. Take small handfuls and squeeze the eggplant cubes dry.
Heat remaining oil in cleaned skillet over medium high heat. Working in batches, fry eggplant, turning occasionally, until tender and brown on all sides. Add more oil for second batch as necessary. Transfer to paper towels and drain. When cool, combine eggplant with remaining ingredients into a glass bowl. Let stand for an hour. Taste and correct seasonings. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to let flavors develop. Garnish with basil chiffonade. Serve with crusty, warmed baguette or as a side dish with grilled fish or chicken.