There is so much in Sicily, food-wise, it continues to be influenced by so many other cultures that the foods are hard to describe. Today I made Caponata, a condimento, served either hot with a main course, or cold with wine and cheeses as an apperitivo. I'm not exactly sure how I will serve it tomorrow night, but it's going to be delicious either with the swordfish from Catalina Offshore, or the cheeses from Venissimo. Since the eggplant is coming in at Specialty Produce, it was time to take advantage of that, too.
Caponata is an example of agra dolce, or sweet and sour. For this version I am using balsamic vinegar (instead of the typical red wine vinegar) and golden raisins instead of sugar. I like the balance these give to the otherwise robust ingredients.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 ribs celery, chopped, including the leaves
8 cups chopped eggplant (skin on)
1/4 cup tomato puree
2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons capers packed in brine, drained and chopped if large
1/4 cup Spanish pimiento stuffed olives, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
salt and pepper
In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium high heat and saute the garlic, onion, and celery for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.
Add the eggplant, and saute until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes.
Add the tomato puree and vinegar, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the raisins, capers and olives, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the parsley and basil, season with salt and pepper. The caponata is actually better served the next day, after the flavors have gotten to know each other.