Caponata is one of the most famous agro-dolce dishes of Sicily. Its base is a mixture of fried onions, celery, and eggplant to which sweet peppers, artichokes and asparagus may be added. The mixture has been known to be enriched with lobster, shrimp, small octopus or bottarga. It can also be stuffed inside the belly of a whole fish and roasted. Caponata has been thought to originate as seagoing fare, because it is preserved with vinegar.
1 medium to large eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 C. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 stalks of celery, diced
3 red bell peppers, seeded and slices
2 cup drained plum tomatoes, seeded
S & P
1/2 C. green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 T. raisins or currants, plumped in warm water, drained
2 T. drained capers
1/2 C. wine vinegar mixed with 2 T. sugar
2 tsp. oregano
optional: 2 T grated bitter chocolate or unsweetened cocoa
3/4 C. toasted almonds
Wash the eggplant, cut off the stem and cut into 3/4 in. cubes. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain. After 30 min. rinse, squeeze dry and pat in paper towels. Sauté in 1 C olive oil until golden brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. In the same remaining olive oil, sauté the onion, celery, and peppers until soft and sweet. Add the tomatoes, olives, raisins and capers to the onion mixture and simmer for 5 more min. Correct the seasoning and pour into a serving dish to cool.
Caponata is at its best when refrigerated at least overnight, then brought to room temperature before serving. Sprinkle with toasted almonds before serving. If using cocoa, add it to the vinegar and sugar.
previously published in the North End News April 2008