The purple summer plumply eggplants are the stars of this classic Sicilian dish, also know as Capunata. The name comes from the old Sicilian sailors taverns of the past called caupone.
It is such a zesty tasty mix of sweet and sour flavors from the beautiful island of Sicily. Blue seas, sunny beaches and great summer vegetables, kissed by the strong sun.
This dish is often prepared with unexpected ingredients like… chocolate. yes, si, si…It is at its best when eaten on a warm crusty slice of bread, or served as side dish with grilled meat, over rotini pasta and fantastic for picnics too.
The recipe is from Pia Vallone, Chef at ICE, who has Sicilian origins and was my teacher during a lovely cooking class I took in New York.
Ingredients: Serves 6 to 8 (divide ingredients for 4 servings)
- 4 large eggplants, washed and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 4 celery stacks, washed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 large onion diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup pitted green olives
- 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated bitterweet chocolate, or coca powder
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Sea salt, 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or more at your taste
- Using a large skillet saute’ the eggplant over medium heat in a large skillet, in 2 or 3 batches, using 2 tablespoons of olive oil each time. Cook eggplant until browned. Remove eggplant , reserve in a big bowl.
- In the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, saute’ celery over low heat for about 5 minutes. Remove celery from the skillet, add to the eggplants bow, reserve.
- In the same skillet, over low heat, saute’ onions till soft and translucent, for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes to the skillet and let it cook 3 minutes more.
- Now add eggplants, celery back to the skillet, then add olives, capers, capers salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 2 to 4 more minutes.
- Add vinegar and sugar to the eggplant mixture. Stir, cook for 1 to 2 minutes more at medium heat.Add chocolate or cocoa powder. It’s time to taste and adjust seasoning, as the caponata should taste sweet and sour.
- Continue to cook till at least 1/2 liquid has evaporated, If vegetables are still too crunchy add 2 to 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water and stir, letting the liquid to evaporate a little more.
- Once done, serve on a large bowl or plate, with crusty warm slices of country bread, and crumbles of ricotta salata.
Sautéing (from the French sauté) , or tossing while cooking )is a cooking method that uses a small amount of oil, butter or fat using a shallow over relatively high heat. Ingredients are usually cut into pieces or thinly for fast cooking. Food that is sautéed is browned while preserving its textures, moisture and flavor. If meat, chicken, or fish is sautéed, the sauté is often finished by deglazing the pan’s residue to make a sauce. (source Wikipedia).