I read that if a recipe doesn’t call for a lot of olive oil it isn’t a real caponata. So I did my research and came up with an adaptation of many different recipes for this classic Sicilian appetizer. Always served cold and no sooner than the day after its been prepared, this is a bit of a time consuming concoction. One of those dishes I call a true labor of love. It is so wonderful to break out on a hot summer day for lunch or dinner. If you have the patience to wait, its best to let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 days before serving to fully develop the flavors, but its great the next day as well.
This will yield about 2 1/2 qts- enough to share- keeps well in the fridge for at least a week, longer if covered in olive oil.
- 3 1/2 lbs of eggplant (about 3 medium sized)
- 2 1/2 cups diced onions- 1/2 inch dice
- 3 lbs of canned Italian tomatoes- chopped
- 1 1/2 cups of celery diced
- 1/4 cup 12 year aged balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup finely chopped basil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
- 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup capers- drained- if you can find the salted capers even better, just rinse them
- 1/2 cup green olives chopped- no pimento
- 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Cut the eggplant into 3/4 inch cubes place in a colander and sprinkle lightly with salt. This will remove some of the water. Let them drain while you are chopping the vegetables approx 25 minutes.
Simmer the chopped tomatoes with the vinegar and sugar over low heat for about 15 minutes. Add in half of the parsley and basil and remove from the heat.
Heat the oil in a large heavy pan to 370 degrees. If you do not have a thermometer just gauge by testing small pieces of celery until they sizzle full force in the pan. Fry the celery in batches until the edges start to turn brown remove them with a slotted spoon leaning the spoon against the inside of the pot to drain off the oil and then put them directly into the sauce. Next fry the eggplant in batches adding them to the tomato mixture. So long as you do not overload the pot and maintain proper temperature control they will not absorb too much oil. Lastly fry the onions to a golden brown in batches. Drain them on a paper towel before adding them to the tomatoes and eggplant.
Reheat the mixture over low heat. Stir in the remaining basil and parsley and cook until the mixture is thick with very little extra liquid. Add the olives, capers and pine nuts and continue cooking stirring constantly until there is no extra liquid at all.
Store in an air tight container in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving cold. Buon appetito !