Saturday, April 11, 2009
Caponata is an Italian relish made with eggplant, tomatoes, red peppers, and a couple other standard ingredients. I get the feeling that caponata is to Italian households like chicken salad is to American ones: you maybe have grammie's special recipe, you likely have several different variations, and you most definitely make it when it's time to clean out the fridge.
Because of the sweet-sour combination of vinegar and raisins, it's similar to a chutney in its tanginess, but with traditional italian flavors like earthy eggplant, rich tomatoes, and grassy parsley. I guess we would think of it as a dip for bread or crackers, but it also makes an excellent accompaniment to poached/broiled/grilled/baked chicken or fish, just spooned right over. It would also be great (you guessed it) sprinkled over a salad, maybe with some chunky cheese--no dressing necessary.
I happened to have A LOT of freshly baked bread (see previous post) on hand, so we just sliced it thin and used it as spoons to scoop up the goods.
Also, this stuff just gets better and better the longer it sits, so make a full batch and just let it hang out in the fridge for the next week or so, scooping at will. It makes a great appetizer to snack on if/when you're creating that night's main course.
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small red pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 large (or 2 small-medium) ribs celery, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (undrained!)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup raisins, preferably golden
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 scant Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp capers, drained
4 kalamata olives, finely chopped
1. Take a microwave safe plate and line it with 2 paper towels. Toss eggplant with 1 tsp salt, then arrange in a single layer on the plate. Microwave for 8 minutes, taking it out and tossing it around halfway. When done, turn out onto another 3 layers of paper towels and press lightly to extract liquid.
2.While eggplant is in the micro, heat some oil over medium heat in a large skillet and saute pepper, onions, and celery with a sprinkle of salt to sweat them, about 4-5 minutes. When eggplant is ready, add to skillet and cook another 2 minutes, adding oil as necessary to prevent sticking.
3. Now add full can of tomatoes, juice and all, vinegar, raisins, parsley, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer 8-10 minutes. Stir in capers and olives. Season with salt, pepper, and extra vinegar to taste--keeping in mind that vinegar flavor will become more astringent the longer it sits.
4. Let cool to room temperature to allow flavors to meld (about 30 minutes). Store in the refrigerator and consume for days to come.
*Disclaimer: I made this about a week ago and am doing the post from memory. I'm 99% sure It's right, but if you make it and something's missing, do us all a favor and post a comment suggesting what you think it needs....