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Monday, August 5, 2013

Italian Caponata Relish

The farmer’s market and local produce stands are loaded with eggplants.   I love the flavor of eggplant and wanted to try my luck at making a Caponata.  Caponata is a sweet-and-sour Sicilian version of the French ratatouille.  It is an eggplant based relish that serves well on toasted bruschetta.   

I remember my mother-in-law making it one time and her and I being the only ones that actually liked it.   I was pretty sure that I had written down her recipe, but when I looked for it I was unable to find it.  So, thus began my internet search.  

Found a few recipes I liked and a few with a list of ingredients that made me think “I would never dream of putting that in it”.    Seriously, the ingredients are pretty basic, eggplant, onion, tomato, garlic, peppers and celery.  From there, there were all kinds of interesting twists on ingredients and the amounts to add.   I tried to keep it simple and hoped to find just the right concoction of ingredients to keep the sweet but tangy taste buds occupied.   

If you like eggplant and you’re looking for something a little different to serve at a party or just to snack on yourself this is a good recipe to have in your files.  


1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large), diced
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, from the tender inner stalks, diced fine
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced fine

2 tbsp. raisins, chopped fine
1 -2 ripe tomatoes, preferably Romas, peeled, seeded and finely chopped,

1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes (in puree)
1-2 tsp. sugar (optional)
2 heaped tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained, and chopped
3 tbsp. coarsely chopped pitted green olives, chopped
2 tbsp.  Pine nuts, roasted and chopped
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar (more to taste)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

½ jalapeno, diced fine (optional)


Prepare eggplant,   cut into ½ slices place in large bowl of generously salted water and weight down with a plate.   Let eggplant soak for 20-30 minutes.  Water will turn black in color.  Remove eggplant from water and pat dry with paper towels.  Dice into smaller pieces, set aside.

Prepare all of your other vegetables.   Clean, dice and set aside in piles.  Peel and dice fresh tomatoes, set aside. 

Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in deep heavy nonstick skillet over medium to high heat.   When pan is ready add the diced eggplant. 
Fry the in 2-3 batches over medium heat, depending on the size of your pan, for approximately 10 minutes or until soft and golden. Season with salt and pepper.   Remove from pan and set aside. 

Heat 1-2 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet, then add the onion and celery. Stir until the onion softens, about five minutes, and add the garlic. Cook together for a minute, until the garlic begins to smell fragrant, and add the peppers, raisins, and season with salt and pepper. Stir until just tender, about eight minutes. Add another tablespoon of oil and the eggplant, and stir together for another five minutes, until the vegetables are tender. The eggplant will fall apart, which is fine.

Add the tomatoes to the pan with a pinch of sugar. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan often, for five to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant. Add the capers, olives, pine nuts, remaining sugar and vinegar.   You can also add the jalapeno here.  Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are thoroughly tender and the mixture is quite thick, sweet and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. If possible, cover and chill overnight. Serve at room temperature.
Notes & Swaps
I did not double recipe.   However, I did put some in prepared mason jars while it was hot and gave them a hot water bath for ten minutes.   Will use them to share with friends and neighbors.  I did keep out one jar for taste testing and snacking over the next few days.      

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