This sicilian caponata appetizer is so delicious especially when created from fresh garden vegetables at the end of the growing season. I like to make extra and freeze it in batches to have as an appetizer throughout the winter when I am really craving the taste of the freshness of summer. This appetizer can be served hot as a vegetable side dish; or cool to room temperature and served as a relish or on an antipasto/charcuterie tray. Recipe adapted from Italian Cooking Class Cookbook by Beekman House.
Serves: Makes about 5 cups; 8-10 servings.
- 1 1/2 pounds (675g) eggplant (about 1 large or 2 small)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) salt
- 2 large red bell peppers
- 1 large onion
- 1 large stalk celery
- 1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon (0.5 to 1ml) dried hot red pepper flakes
- 1 can (14 1/2 ounces or 415g) whole peeled tomatoes or fresh tomatoes with skins removed* (see recipe below for an easy way to remove tomato peels)
- 1-2 large garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) sugar
- 8 Italian or Greek style black olives
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) drained capers
- Rinse eggplant; cut into 3/4 inch (2cm) cubes. Place in a large colander; sprinkle with salt and toss. Let stand and drain in the sink or bowl, tossing occasionally, 1 hour
- Rinse eggplant and drain well; squeeze in a clean kitchen towel to extract moisture. Reserve.
- Core and seed bell peppers; cut into 3/4 inch (2cm) chunks. Chop onion coarsely. Cut celery diagonally into 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) thick slices.
- Heat oil in a 10-inch (25 cm) non-corrosive skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, onion, celery, and pepper flakes; sauté 5 minutes. Add reserved eggplant, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
- Press tomatoes and their liquid through a sieve into vegetables in a skillet;
- discard seeds. Mince garlic; add garlic to skillet. Stir in vinegar and sugar. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Pit and chop olives. Add olives and capers to the skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally; until most of the liquid has evaporated and sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.
*How to Peel Fresh tomatoes
I like to focus my plant-based eating habits on what is in season and what is grown locally. When I have time at the end of the growing season, I will preserve through canning or freezing the fruits and vegetables that I love the most which I can enjoy in other seasons. Currently there are so many varieties of tomatoes available. In the recipe provided above, I chose to use freshly peeled tomatoes. There have been times when I do not peel the tomatoes however; it does make for creamier sauces to take the shortened amount of time to do so. If you decide to peel the tomatoes and not add them to your compost you can dry them in the oven and then pulse them in a mini food processor for a delicious tomato sprinkle which can be added to your favorite recipes.
Total Prep and Cook time: 11 minutes cook time
Cooking tools required; a cutting board, a large bowl for cut tomatoes, a large bowl of ice water, and 3-6 quart pot for processing the tomatoes.
- Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil while you prepare the tomatoes.
- Turn tomatoes over to the bottom and, using a paring knife, cut a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato. Core tomatoes, if you like.
- Carefully lower tomatoes into the boiling water, in batches. Remove after about 30 seconds, once skins start to crack. Be careful to not boil too long, otherwise the tomatoes will start to cook and get too soft to handle easily.
- Immediately put tomatoes into the bowl of ice water. Heating and then shocking the tomatoes in this way makes the skins peel right off!
- Once tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel skins from tomatoes and use in your favorite recipe.
Recipe compliments of OPL Naturalist and Home Chef Yvonne Dwyer