When I was in Sicily last year, everywhere I went I was served some version of caponata, the island’s signature eggplant dish, always at room temperature and as part of a first course. I had caponata with celery and without, and one time with carrots, too. Some had pine nuts or almonds with tiny raisins. Caponata isn’t fancy and there was never a sprinkling of parsley on top, which I was tempted to do here, but in the end, decided against it. Except for the one with celery, I loved them all, and I’ve been meaning to recreate it since then. Somehow a year escaped me.
But I did not forget caponata and I will never forget Sicily, a place I knew I’d like but didn’t expect to fall for quite as I did. Some love stories are like that.
Finally eating this again takes me back to this place where everything seems bigger and more intense — the blistering sun, the ash-spewing Mt. Etna, and the food, served family-style and in portions that I’ve only seen in Texas.
So you might want to double this recipe, and invite over your friends. Serve it with toast and maybe an additional splash of red wine vinegar right before serving like I did, but make it your own. That’s how they do it in Sicilia.
Makes 6 servings
1 medium eggplant
4 tablespoons olive oil + 2 tablespoons
sea salt and pepper to taste
½ red onion, diced
1 cup tomato sauce (I used Sprouts organic plain)
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon chili flakes
3 tablespoons capers, drained
10 green olives, chopped
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons currants
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Slice the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and toss in a bowl with the 4 tablespoons of olive oil and sea salt and pepper. Put on a large baking sheet and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Save Time: Make the eggplant ahead of time and refrigerate.
Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients (except the parsley) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add eggplant, and cook until most of the tomato sauce has been absorbed. Let cool and refrigerate overnight. Let come to room temperature before serving as an antipasti with toasted slices of baguette or flatbread.