Caponata (Eggplant salad)

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PRESENTATION

Caponata (Eggplant salad)

Sicilian cuisine has its roots in simple food, based mainly on typical ingredients such as eggplant, tomatoes and basil, which are the undisputed stars of caponata (eggplant salad), the delicious side dish that we present today. These ingredients, already shared by other typical recipes such as pasta alla Norma (pasta with eggplant) and parmigiana (eggplant parmesan), create a mix of scents, colors and flavors that recall the stunning island of Sicily. Due to the extensive size of Sicily, caponata comes in many variations. Every province, actually every family has its own perfect recipe: with or without raisins, with or without tomato paste... moving just a few miles in another direction will reveal yet a different recipe for this distinctive dish, though all share the basic characteristics: a sweet-and-sour condiment, which gives the vegetables a unique flavor. Our advice? Try as many versions as you can, until you find your favorite that you can pass on to your family too!

INGREDIENTS

Eggplant 2 ¼ lbs (1 kg)
Celery 0.9 lb (400 g)
White onions ½ lb (250 g)
Cluster tomoatoes 0.4 lb (200 g)
Green olives in brine 0.4 lb (200 g) - pitted
Salted capers 1 ¾ oz (50 g) - rinsed
Pine nuts 1 ¾ oz (50 g)
Sugar ⅓ cup (60 g)
White wine vinegar ¼ cup (60 g)
Basil to taste
Tomato paste 2 ½ tbsp (40 g)
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Fine salt to taste
for frying the eggplant
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Preparation

How to prepare Caponata (Eggplant salad)

To make caponata (eggplant salad), first clean the onion and slice it thin 1. Trim the celery and cut it into thin slices 2. Cut the green olives in half and remove the pits 3.

Wash and dry the eggplants, trim and cut them into approx. 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick pieces 4. Do the same with the tomatoes 5. Heat a frying pan and toast the pine nuts for a few minutes 6

until they are golden in color 7. Now take your eggplants: put the olive oil in a high-sided pan and heat it, pour a few eggplant pieces in at a time and fry them for a few minutes 8. Once they are golden, drain them with the skimmer and place them on a tray lined with absorbent paper to remove excess oil 9, then set aside.

In a large pan pour a generous round of olive oil, heat it and then pour in the onion 10. Fry well until the onion has a light golden color, then add the celery 11; let it brown well, then add the capers 12,

olives 13, roasted pine nuts 14 and tomatoes 15.

Brown for a few moments, then cover with the lid 16 and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the sweet-and-sour sauce: pour the vinegar, tomato paste 17 and sugar 18 into a small pot.

Mix well with a teaspoon 19 and, after 15-20 minutes of cooking, add salt and pour the sauce into the pan 20. Turn up the heat and stir until the smell of vinegar has evaporated. Turn off the flame, add the fried eggplant 21

and sprinkle with plenty of basil 22. Mix everything well 23, transfer the caponata (eggplant salad) in an ovenproof dish and put it in the fridge. This dish should be served cold or at room temperature and will taste even better the next day.

Storage

The caponata can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days, in a glass container covered with plastic wrap. Before serving, however, bring it to room temperature and keep it out of the fridge for a couple of hours!

 

Tips

In Palermo, caponata may be served with floured and fried baby octopus; another common variation is to add thin slices of sweet pepper, which you will fry together with the eggplant. Try them yourself!

 

Interesting fact

There is much dispute about the name "caponata": some claim it comes from the word Capone, the Sicilian dialect for mahi-mahi, a fish with lean and fine meat served on aristocratic tables and seasoned with a sweet and sour sauce. The people who did not have or could not afford this type of fish, found eggplant to be an excellent substitute, thus creating the recipe for caponata. Others trace the term Caponata back to the Latin word Caupona - Cauponium, which means tavern. The tavern was in fact the meeting place where sailors would go to after work to refresh themselves with a glass of wine and simple but tasty food, reminiscent of this dish. This ancient dish is widespread throughout the Mediterranean and is known in many variations; at least 37 versions can be found in Sicily alone!