Every family has their favorite way (the right way?!) to make caponata, which is versatile as a vegetable side dish, sandwich filling, topping for grilled meats, or simply on a piece of grilled bread. Here's our spin on this classic dish, but play with it to make it your family's own with our family's Nocellara Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
This recipe makes a big batch, but keeps for a week easily in the fridge with no decrease in quality, so you can enjoy it in many different ways.
2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2-3/4" chunks
2 medium yellow onions, chop into 1/2" pieces
3 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4" pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup brine-packed capers, drained (see note for salt-packed capers)
1 cup Castelvetrano/Nocellara olives (about 24 olives), pitted and roughly chopped, you'll have a scant 2/3 cup of olives after pitting and chopping
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, drained (or 1 pound smoked plum tomatoes, see note)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
Heat 3 TBS of Nocellara Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a wide deep sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering.
Add half the eggplant, and fry in the oil, turning regularly, until eggplant is soft, lightly browned, and starting release some of the oil it absorbed.
Remove eggplant to paper-towel lined plate.
Repeat process with another 3 TBS Nocellara Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the other half of the eggplant.
Add 1 TBS Nocellara Extra Virgin Olive Oil to pan, still over medium heat.
Add onion, celery, and kosher salt. Cook stirring regularly until vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes, using juices released to scrap up any leftover browned bits from cooking the eggplant.
Add capers, olives, raisins, tomatoes, red wine vinegar, and honey. Simmer lightly for about 5 minutes.
Add eggplant to pan with other vegetables, and stir to distribute. Simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature with another TBS of Nocellara Extra Virgin Olive Oil drizzled on top. (see note for serving tip)
For best results, make the caponata a day or two ahead. Bring to room temperature before serving.
If you have high quality salt-packed capers, substitute for the more widely available brine-packed capers. However, be sure to rinse well, then soak for 30 minutes, changing the water at least twice.
Mezzetta brand castelvetrano olives are good quality with a simple brine that doesn't interfere with other flavors of this dish.
For an extra layer of flavor with the tomatoes, look for a canned fire-roasted tomato without added herbs, such as Hunt's or Muir Glen. However, if you have a grill or a smoker and the time- take a pound of fresh plum tomatoes, slice in half, place skin side down onto perforated pan and smoke over a fruitwood like cherry for 30 minutes over medium heat until peels start coming off, then peel, chop and add in place of the canned tomatoes.
For the honey, use a medium-light but flavorful honey. If you can source Sicilian honey, we like Solmielato's eucalyptus honey for this dish.