Caponata is something I ate a lot growing up, but never knew the real name – my grandmother used to make it all the time, especially when there were a lot of people to feed, and she served it with bread or on small toasts, canapé style. I loved it and would ask her to make it again and again – I used to call it “my grandma’s eggplant dish”, having no idea it was such a staple of Italian cuisine.
It took me forever to make caponata myself, maybe because it has always been something so attached to my grandma’s cooking, but my husband asked me to make it and I decided to give it a go, especially after going through some of my books and finding a recipe by Andrew Carmellini on one of my favorite cookbooks – it is his the most delicious gnocchi I’ve ever made, and I ate at both Lafayette and Locanda Verde when I was in NYC, so I trust the guy. ;)
Andrew’s caponata is very easy to put together and it tastes great, not to mention it benefits from a day of two in the fridge – I’m all for making things in advance, so this recipe has become part of my repertoire and I hope it becomes part of yours, too.
slightly adapted from the delicious Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food
1/3 cup (80ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced large
1 yellow pepper, diced large
1 Italian eggplant, diced large
3 stalks of celery, diced large
1 zucchini, diced large
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 400g (14oz) can chopped peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar – I used sherry vinegar
Heat olive oil in a large saucepot over high heat. Add the onion, pepper and eggplant. When the vegetables have softened a bit (about 5 minutes), add the celery and zucchini. Season with half the salt and black pepper. Mix the ingredients together and continue to cook.
After ten 10 minutes, add the red pepper flakes and garlic. Cover and reduce the heat to medium, and let the steam roast the vegetables for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft but not falling apart and the tomatoes are well incorporated. Mix in the balsamic vinegar and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove the saucepot from the heat, add the thyme and season with remaining salt and pepper (add more salt to taste if necessary). Mix in vinegar.
The caponata can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days (I thought it tasted better the day after it was made).