Right about this time of the year in Arizona, we look at big, heavy meals and well, they just don’t look appetizing because of the heat. That’s when charcuterie boards and light bites are a welcome meal or appetizer. Caponata is the perfect choice for days like that; when noshing is the most satisfying. This dish called Caponata, a sweet and savory fresh vegetable sauté comes from the Sicilian side of my family, my father’s side. I’ve share with you before that I grew up in a civil war zone of sorts, between the North and the South. Momma is from Venice, (northern Italy) and Dad came from Trapani, the southernmost tip of Sicily’s “boot.” Friendly battles raged at the kitchen table all of my life, with the northern contingency (Mom) insisting that food from the north, like Risotto, Polenta and Osso Buco are much preferred over southern Italy’s Arancini, Calzones and of course, Caponata. Guess who was the big winner in the plate wars? Me! I loved it all, and didn’t mind the friendly fire of food one bit! Caponata is delicious either as an appetizer on toasted baguette slices or as or a light afternoon meal served over pasta or steamed rice. If you’ve heard the term “Agrodolce”, Caponata’s sauce is the perfect example. Its name comes from “agro” meaning sour and “dolce” meaning sweet. The sweetness comes from sautéed yellow onion and a little bit of sugar, while the sour is derived from the capers and vinegar. There are a whole lot of delicious flavors in between, and the best part is, you can make up a big batch and enjoy it all week long in various recipes. This week, Dad’s side wins the battle, but the Italian food war is far from over!
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 cup chopped sweet yellow onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into one inch cubes
- 1 can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (28 o ounces)
- 1 jar of small capers (4 ounces)
- 1/2 cup fresh or dried basil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 large can of black pitted ripe olives, sliced (6 ounces)
- 8 large green olives stuffed with pimiento, sliced
- Heat in a large (12-inch) skillet, 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add onions and celery, cooking for 6 minutes. Add cubed eggplant. Cook for 12 minutes stirring occasionally. Add remainder of olive oil a little at a time during the 12 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, capers, basil, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Simmer until all vegetables are fork tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon mixture into large bowl and add black and green olives. Serve mixture warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate remaining caponata. Serve with pasta, rice or crustini (toasted baguette.) Note: Make at least one day in advance of serving. Mixture can be frozen in large batches.