This boldly flavored vegetarian dish can be enjoyed as a main course or a veggie side!
Sicilian food represents of tapestry of flavors and cultures, and differs from Italian food made on the mainland of Europe in that it incorporates both regional Italian ingredients, and ingredients and techniques lent from Arab and North African culture. Sicily’s position in the central area of the Mediterranean Sea, just a short distance from the shores of Tunisia, has contributed to its cuisine ingredients such as capers, green olives, and honey, for a unique taste that combines two famed culinary traditions.
Caponata is a traditional dish that is a mainstay on Sicilian tables. It is a vegetarian dish, often enjoyed as a side at a table brimming with meat, fish, and pasta. But it can also be enjoyed as a main dish at lunchtime, or any time you want a vegetable-rich meal. It tastes delicious when it has been cooked ahead of time and the flavors have been allowed to mingle and enhance one another in the fridge. You can enjoy it alone, or pair it with whole grain Italian bread or a side of farro, a nutritious whole grain native to the Mediterranean region.
While caponata is named after one of its star ingredients, the caper, it’s really eggplant that takes the spotlight in this caponata recipe. Eggplant’s rich, meaty texture belies the fact that it is so low in calories! High in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, this veggie is a nutrient powerhouse that really fills you up and satisfies. And the other veggies in this dish are standouts as well. Bold flavors come from capers, olives, and tomatoes, and all three deliver vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that make this Sicilian staple a nutritious and flavorful vegetarian favorite!
- 2 pounds eggplants big, diced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 white onion big, thinly sliced (use a sharp knife or a mandoline if possible)
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1/4 cup green olives pitted and quartered
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 2 celery stalks cleaned and diced
- 1/8 cup basil leaves fresh
- 6 teaspoons coconut sugar or honey, can be adjusted according to taste
- 4 teaspoons white wine vinegar can be adjusted according to taste
- In a bowl of salted water, soak the eggplants for about 10 minutes then drain.
- Over high heat, in a saucepan with a lot of olive oil, fry the eggplants in a saucepan until they turn brownish. Set aside.
- Over medium heat, in another saucepan with a little bit of water, cook the onions.
- When the water evaporates, add the oil then put the heat down to low. Sautè until they become brownish.
- Add the tomato puree. Cook for about 15 minutes then turn off the fire. Set aside.
- Over medium heat, in a third cooking pot, put the celery then add some water until they are completely covered. Cook for about 15 minutes then add a pinch of salt. Drain then set aside.
- Meantime, rinse the capers under the faucet. Soak them in a bowl of water for about 10 minutes. Drain then squeeze out the water lightly. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix the salt, sweetener and vinegar then set aside.
- Over high heat, in a big saucepan with olive oil, sautè the celery. Add the sauteed onions with tomato sauce then add a little bit of water. Add the basil and olives and mix. Add the eggplants.
- After about 10 minutes, add the sweetener & vinegar mixture. Adjust the taste according to your liking. Add more vinegar if you want it stronger or less if you want it to be less strong. Cook for another 20 minutes.
- Serve at room temperature or cold. Caponata tastes better when cooked ahead, and even better after 24 hours. Keep it covered in the refrigerator.
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