Caponata alla Siciliana or Sweet and Sour EggplantCaponata is a sweet and sour Sicilian vegetable dish that ticks most of the Mediterranean cuisine boxes. We ate the Caponata as a vegetable dish to accompany chicken during the week, although it can be served on its own to accompany healthy breads or as a relish. The smaller the size of the vegetable pieces the more you can call it a relish. It will keep in the frig for a couple of days and improves in flavour as a result.
A healthy Japanese Eggplant bush growing in my garden, inspired this recipe. One important thing I have learnt about eggplant is that once picked they don't have a long shelf or refrigerator life. Eggplant don't seem to store well and they are best not refrigerated, however it is still quite muggy and hot here in Mackay so I think it would be too warm leaving them out on the kitchen bench and so I prefer to cook them close to harvesting. The Japanese or Asian eggplant variety are milder in flavour and have less seeds than the larger aubergines, and the bush supports the weight of the eggplant better than that of the large globe shaped fruit. From now I think that these are the ones we will grow.
I am aware that many of my food and cooking choices during the week "unconsciously" tend to fit into the framework of what is now called the Mediterranean diet, which we are told is very healthy. Food choices are also based on what is available at the Farmer's Market, trying to eat more fruit, vegetables and pulses and a decision to reduce the amount of meat we are eating in our diet. The latter isn't easy at times as I grew up in Rockhampton, proudly the Beef Capital of Australia for Heaven's sake, so I was raised on good beef, however there are so many more vegetable and fruit choices available now. My goodness, the weight should just be falling off, however life isn't that simple when you are in your early 60s, but it is a good start towards aiming for a healthy lifestyle. Thankfully the Mediterranean lifestyle allows a good glass of red wine with our meal, in moderation of course and it compliments Caponata beautifully.
All of the traditional recipes for Caponata suggest 1 cup of olive oil for this quantity of vegetables, however next time I will reduce the amount of oil to 3/4 of a cup and just check that it isn't sticking to the pan. The vegetable combination is absolutely delicious however the amount of oil needed is a personal taste.
1 kg cubed eggplant, or 2 large ones, cut into 2 cm cubes
6 inner sticks of celery, cut into 2 cm pieces
3/4 cup of olive oil, approx.
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup pitted green olives (I threw in a few black ones to use them up)
1 large red capsicum
1/2 cup well-drained small capers
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup roughly chopped basil
1 1/2 cups Fresh Tomato Sauce or Passata or canned Italian Plum Tomatoes, drained and chopped
(I used my stash of frozen Oven Baked Tomato Sauce for this recipe)
1/2 cup white or red wine vinegar (I used white)
2 tablespoons sugar
Find the recipe for Oven Baked Tomatoes here.
Sprinkle the eggplant pieces with salt and drain for an hour in a colander.
Blanch the celery for 1 minute in boiling water and drain and allow to cool slightly.
Rinse the eggplant well, dry and drain the pieces. Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil if the oil isn't really hot, so instead of frying the eggplant I prefer to bake it.
Toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of the olive oil; spread onto baking parchment in a baking tray and and bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a large frypan, saute the onion in the remaining oil until it begins to colour.
Add the celery and garlic, and cook a minute longer, don't let the garlic brown, then add the olives, the capers, tomato sauce pr chopped tomatoes, capsicum, vinegar and sugar.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in the eggplant and simmer for 10 minutes until vegetables are tender.
Stir in the mint and cook 5 minutes longer
Check the seasoning, adjust to your taste, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Bring back to room temperature and serve sprinkled with toasted pine nuts or almond slivers, and fresh chopped basil.
I had only eaten Caponata once before I made this recipe whereas Ratatouille is so popular and so similar. Have you eaten Caponata very often?
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