Caponata is a classic Sicilian dish traditionally made with fried eggplants, celery, vinegar, and capers, for a sweet and sour tasting dish. It’s often paired with crusty bread as a starter or eaten with the main course as a warm side dish, however, we often eat ours just by itself for a light dinner.
This is our version where the main difference is that instead of using only one variety of eggplant we use four (globe, purple, Sicilian (of course), and Chinese purple), and we do not fry our eggplant but saute them instead. We also replaced the celery with diced stewed tomatoes for a sweeter and even creamier dish, and we bumped up the “sour” as well by adding a few green olives. Lastly, we stir in chopped parsley at the last minute for color and added freshness; garnish it with toasted pine nuts.
It’s a wonderful balance of flavors, textures, and color. Did we say that it’s also easy to make and quite versatile? At the end of this post, we have added a photo of this same caponata but with fresh dandelion leaves added a couple minutes before serving for even more color, freshness, texture and a little bitterness for even more complex flavor.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 2 qts (we have made half this amount before but it NEVER was enough; sounds and looks like a lot but it WILL go fast!)
- 4 lbs eggplants: (photo below) 2 each Chinese (l), 1 purple and white a.k.a. Graffiti (c), 1 Sicilian (tr), 1 globe (br))
- Washed, patted dry, unpeeled, and large dice (about 1-inch cubes)
- 1 large red onion, peeled and large dice
- 2 cups diced stewed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced (or sliced)
- 1/2 cup green olives, sliced in half
- 3 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (have more available as eggplants soak up a lot of oil)
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Other great options are chopped fresh basil, fennel leaves, or even mint
- Kosher salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (garnish)
- Wash and pat dry eggplants, cut into large dice (about 1-inch cubes); set aside.
- It is not necessary to peel newly harvested and organic eggplants.
- Peel and large dice the red onion; set aside.
- Peel and mince (or slice) garlic; set aside.
- Drain the green olives, slice in half; set aside.
- Drain and rinse the capers; set aside.
- Wash, and spin-dry the parsley, chop; set aside.
- Place a large saute pan on a burner set to medium-high, wait a couple of minutes for the pan to heat up, add the oil, wait another minute then add the onions, cook for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally then add the garlic, cook for one minute.
- Add the eggplants and a pinch or two of salt (to help the eggplants release their moisture), stir to mix well, cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cook for another 10 minutes.
- Note: eggplants do soak up a lot of oil so you may need to add a little more at this step but no more than 1 tbsp at a time. This is important; eggplants, like any other fresh produce, loses moisture over time so if you’re using older eggplants the dish may get dry as it cooks running the risk of burning during cooking. Reducing the heat to a simmer will help prevent this but keep an eye on it during this step.
- Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, and vinegar, cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Add the chopped parsley, mix well.
- Your eggplant caponata is done and ready to serve!
- Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with toasted pine nuts.
Here’s another favorite version of eggplant caponata, where we add fresh dandelion leaves right at the last minute. Other great additions are arugula, Italian kale, dandelion leaves, black Tuscan kale, radish or turnip greens (for a hint of spice). We like to use whatever greens are in season.