Caponata is a sweet-and-sour Sicilian version of ratatouille. Because eggplant readily absorbs other flavors, it’s particularly good in such a pungent dish. Caponata should be served at room temperature, but it’s good cold and tastes even better if left overnight. Caponata makes a great topping for bruschetta. Makes 6-8 servings
1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large), roasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, from the tender inner stalks, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
Salt to taste
1 pound ripe tomatoes preferably Romas, peeled, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes (in puree)
3 heaped tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pitted green olives
2 tablespoons sugar, plus a pinch
3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar (more to taste)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Roast the eggplant then allow to cool. Chop coarsely.
2. Heat one tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet, then add the onion and celery. Stir until the onion softens, about five minutes, and add the garlic. Cook together for a minute, until the garlic begins to smell fragrant, and add the peppers and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir until just tender, about eight minutes. Add another tablespoon of oil and the eggplant, and stir together for another five minutes, until the vegetables are tender. The eggplant will fall apart, which is fine. Season to taste.
3. Add the tomatoes to the pan with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of sugar. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan often, for five to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant. Add the capers, olives, remaining sugar and vinegar. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are thoroughly tender and the mixture is quite thick, sweet and fragrant. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. If possible, cover and chill overnight. Serve at room temperature.
Advance preparation: Caponata will keep for three to five days in the refrigerator