Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant Caponata was one of my mom’s many signature recipes and I recall her preparing it quite often. Funny enough, it has also been the hardest to replicate. First, I couldn’t find the recipe even though I was sure of the cookbook it originated from. Then, a recipe index search yielded no results for Caponata. Frustrated I gave up the search, before ultimately going through page-by-page and finding a curious recipe for “Pickled Eggplant” with the Italian “Caponata” written below it. The recipe appeared to have basic similarity to mom’s, but ultimately I realized it was used a guideline and I would have to go about recreating her version by memory.

I remember coming home from school many afternoons with some trouble or another, my mother placing a cutting board and knife in front of me and letting me chop vegetables for the spread as we talked. The familiar tangy, sweet and savory smell of the Caponata melding together in the background. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Caponata is a Southern Italian (My Grandmother isn’t reading this, right?) tomato based eggplant spread, chock full of vegetables and finished with sliced black olives. It is a light and fresh appetizer to nosh on with crackers and a glass of wine and can be served warm or cold. Thankfully, we’ve had a thriving crop of eggplants in our garden this year, it took 4 attempts, but I finally got it right.

 

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Eggplant Caponata
Source: Mommy 🙂

Ingredients

  • ~ 3 medium Asian/Oriental style eggplants, chopped into 1″1-1/2″ cubes
  • Water
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium rib celery, sliced
  • 1 small tomato
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 large onion, diced
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 16 pitted black olives, sliced
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

 

Instructions

  1. Saute the eggplant cubes, drizzling with olive oil as needed on medium heat. The eggplants will soak up the olive oil and begin to dry out and may stick to the pan, at this point add in about 1/2 cup of water (the cubes should be submerged about half way) as needed until they begin to soften and cook down.
  2. When the eggplants are beginning to soften, add in celery, tomato, carrot, garlic, and onion.
  3. When the vegetables are tender, add in diced tomatoes, red wine vinegar and tomato sauce and cover, stirring occasionally. If all the liquid has absorbed and mixture has not reduced to a smooth consistency, add water and cook until liquid has almost completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Uncover and incorporate olives evenly in the spread and serve warm or chill completely and serve.

Notes:

You can absolutely substitute Globe Style Eggplants, which are found most commonly in American grocery stores, I just had Asian variety on hand.

I use whatever jarred tomato sauce I have open, I’ve tried it with canned tomato sauce and it always seems to come out a bit bland.

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