Caponata, the color, is a dark chocolate with purple undertones. It creates a “lush atmosphere,” according to paint producer Benjamin Moore, when applied to fireplace, base molding or soffit. In other words, it’s intense. Use sparingly.
The same goes for caponata, the condiment — though there’s no chocolate involved. The recipe calls for tender eggplant, sharp olives and briny capers, with an undertone of tomato. Caponata creates a lush atmosphere alongside roast chicken, topping crostini or backing up the poached egg.
Paint swatches for Caponata claim it pairs nicely with Leap of Faith (gold) and Deep in Thought (off-white). The same might be said of caponata, the condiment. It takes a minor leap to commit to salting and draining and frying and simmering. But a fridge stocked with the sweet-sharp satisfaction of caponata creates such a lush atmosphere, it leaves the cook deep in happy thought.
Preparation time: 75 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
- 2 pounds small, firm eggplant cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- Fine sea salt
- Vegetable oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch curls
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1-1/4 cups meaty green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and patted dry
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 to 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Toss eggplant cubes with salt. Heap into a colander set over a bowl. Set a plate on top and weight it down with something heavy. Let drain 1 hour. Pat dry.
Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add one-third the eggplant; do not crowd. Fry, stirring now and then, until cubes are browned (adjusting heat so they don’t scorch), about 4 minutes. Drain on paper or kitchen towels. Season with pepper. Repeat, adding oil as needed, frying eggplant and seasoning with pepper in two more batches.
Wipe out any remaining vegetable oil. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Tumble in onion and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in celery, and cook until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Pour in tomato sauce; simmer 5 minutes. Add olives, capers, sugar and 4 tablespoons vinegar. Simmer 5 minutes, to allow the flavors to mingle and the sauce to thicken.
Add the eggplant and parsley; stir to coat. Taste and add more salt, sugar or vinegar if you like. Cook just until eggplant is heated through. Pull pan off heat. Let cool completely before servings.
This is nice on crostini, as a side to roast chicken, grilled lamb or sausages. Or top with an egg for a simple meal.
Leftover caponata keeps at least 1 week, refrigerated.
Makes about 6 cups.
Recipe adapted from: “Preserving Italy” by Domenica Marchetti
Home on the Range is a Tribune News Service column by Leah Eskin, which offers “delicious essays and insightful recipes.”