Caponata is a sweet, sour, salty, spicy, crunchy vegetable relish that becomes addictive once you try it! It is made primarily with eggplant, celery, tomatoes, olives and raisins. Eat it with grilled toast or a crispy panelle, a fried fritter made of chickpeas and favorite street food in Palermo. Add Caponata to your antipasti platter or as a side dish for fish. This versatile vegetable dish has lots of variations. My version leaves out the pine nuts, garlic and extra sugar.
- 2 large eggplant
- 3 TB kosher salt
- 1 cup olive oil
- 6 stalks celery
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 TB tomato paste
- 4 ripe Roma tomatoes diced with juice and seeds
- 1 cup golden raisins
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 15 green olives pitted
- 1 small jar capers rinsed
- Handful torn basil leaves
- ½ cup Italian flat leaf parsley chopped
- Slice eggplants into 1 inch thick slices. Layer the slices on a paper towel in a colander and sprinkle each layer liberally with a total of 2 TB of the salt. Weight down with a plate and let sit for 30-60 minutes on. This process will help remove the moisture and bitterness from the eggplants. When ready, wipe each slice with paper towels to remove the salt. Do not rinse. You will notice that the salt was pulled away with the excess liquid. Dice the eggplant into 1 inch cubes, skin on.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and fry, tossing occasionally, until browned, 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to paper towel to drain; set aside. If needed fry in batches.
- In the same skillet over medium-high heat, add onions, red pepper flakes and celery, and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, 10 minutes. Don't overcook celery. Reduce heat to medium, and add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 1–2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, raisins and vinegar and continue cooking for 10 minutes or until thickened. Take off the heat and let cool slightly.
- Place cooled celery/tomato mixture In a glass bowl. Add browned eggplant, olives, capers, basil and parsley. Mix well. Can be served warm or at room temperature.
- Serve with grilled Italian toasts, or chickpea fritters (Panelle).