Sicilia. This is what I've been waiting for since August when I started this blog. This is the region that my family is from, and it was in cooking my great-grandmother's recipes that I got the inspiration for even taking on this project. Since Cucina DiBella's inception, I have been anticipating the week that I would be able to focus my attention on my favorite of all Italian foods and the recipes that mean the most to me. Now that it's here, a week seems like entirely too little time. So, I'm actually going to do two weeks of recipes from Sicilia because, well, I feel like it. It's going to be a mix between my Nonna's family recipes and recipes for dishes that I enjoyed while visiting Sicilia.
I guess right off the bat I'm going to contradict myself, though. The first dish that I made from Sicily, Caponata, is neither something I ate in Sicilia, nor is it a recipe of my Nonna's. However, it is something that always graced my family's table as a part of our antipasto course at Thanksgiving, so I say it counts.
Caponata is a delicious appetizer made of eggplant. It can be eaten on its own or on slices of toasted bread, hot, room temperature, or cold. My personal favorite is to eat it over toasted bread at room temperature about a day after it was made so that the flavors really meld together. Since it is really just cutting up vegetables and then letting them cook together, Caponata really is not a complex dish. I've seen many recipes that add raisins or even a little sugar to give the dish a hint of sweetness. I decided not to add the raisins, but did add in a red bell pepper. This dish is delicious, and in my opinion, much better than the store-bought version!
Adapted from Epicurious
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 eggplants, about 1 1/2 pounds total
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
toasted pine nuts
- Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Place the cubes on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Pat the eggplant down with another paper towel. Let the eggplant sit for about 15 minutes to pull some of the liquid out of them.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the eggplant, onion, and garlic to the pot. Saute about 15 minutes. Ignore the urge to add more olive oil if your eggplant absorbs the olive oil from the pot.
- Add the diced tomatoes, along with their juices, to the pot. If some of the pieces of tomato are too large, cut them up.
- Add the pepper, red wine vinegar, and capers to the pot.
- Cover the pot and turn the heat down to medium-low. Allow the mixture to simmer about 12 minutes, or until the eggplant and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.
- Mix in the basil and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix in the toasted pine nuts.
- You can eat caponata hot, warm or cold. The flavors are at their best when served at room temperature a day or so after making it.
Ryan'sSue's rating of Caponata - 5.