Caponata

Cynthia Nobles

Photo by Cynthia LeJeune NoblesCaponata, a sweet and sour eggplant dish, may have been created by Arabs who lived in Spain, but is a popular Sicilian dish.
Photo by Cynthia LeJeune NoblesCaponata, a sweet and sour eggplant dish, may have been created by Arabs who lived in Spain, but is a popular Sicilian dish.

ADVOCATE-TESTED RECIPE

Caponata

Makes 3 to 4 cups. Recipe is by Cynthia LeJeune Nobles. Although strongly associated with Sicily, there is evidence that this “agro dolce” (sweet and sour) eggplant dish was created by Arabs who lived in Spain. It was likely first concocted onboard ships, where cooks needed to make use of Mediterranean produce that was close to spoiling. The use of cocoa in caponata is a Sicilian custom.

1 large eggplant

Salt

½ cup olive oil

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 medium onion, finely sliced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup tomato paste

2 cups water

2⁄3 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup roughly chopped olives

½ cup capers

2 tbls. honey

2 tsps. cocoa

¼ cup pine nuts

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh wbasil

Salt and black pepper

Toasts or crackers for serving (optional)

1. Cube unpeeled eggplant. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. With a weight on top (a skillet with a few cans is good) (a skillet with a few cans is good) (a skillet with a few cans is good), set aside to drain for 1 hour. Drain and rinse eggplant, and pat dry. Heat ½ cup olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and sauté eggplant until it begins to color.

2. Add celery, and onion and garlic and sauté until onion begins to brown. Add tomato paste, water, vinegar, olives, capers, honey, cocoa, and pine nuts. Simmer 15 minutes. Add parsley, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or cold as a side dish or an hors d’oeuvre.