Caponatina is a variant of Caponata, a Sicilian eggplant/olive antipasto.
This is the recipe my grandmother taught me how to make before she passed away in 1992. My grandmother’s style of cooking was a blend of Calabian (southern Italian) and Sicilian cooking. Her family were from Scilla, a small seaside Calabrian village across the channel from the Sicily. The style of cooking done in Scilla can be described as very Calebrese with definite Sicilian influences. My grandmother later added the Napoleon style from her mother-in-law.
My grandfather’s family has roots in Naples. She learned how to cook from her mother which was a mix of Calabresi e Siciliani, and eventually Napolitani from my grandfather’s mother. After visiting Scilla in 2008, I returned home with better understanding and greater respect for my grandmother’s style of cooking.
2 lg. Sicilian eggplants (or standard) — cut into 3/4-inch cubes* see note
1-2 cups Celery — chopped
1-2 cups Red Onions — chopped
3/4 cup olives, black Sun-dried ‘Calabrian’ Infornate olives (bitter) (hand pitted). (or use Black Kalamata olives – pitted)
1 jar olives, Manzanillo
1/4 cup capers — drained and rinsed
(optional) 1/3 cup pine nuts (Pignoli) – roasted (see below)
1 can San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed, with sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar — to taste
1/2 -1 cup basil — finely chopped (fresh)
1-2 tbsp sugar
Salt and Pepper — to taste
Eggplant (Sicilian Eggplant preferred but not essential)
When cutting the eggplant in small cubes, place in a large bowl of cold salted-water. This keeps the eggplant from getting brown (oxidation) and helps prevent too much oil from being soaked in during cooking. Rinse and drain prior to frying.
Celery and Onions
Dice celery and onions. The total volume of the chopped and diced celery and onions should equal the volume of cooked eggplant. I usually do about 1 large onion and 4-5 stalks celery.
Olives and Capers
Jarred or canned olives are okay, I usually use 1 jar of Manzanillo (stuffed with peppers), 1 jar of pre diced Kalamata (or black) olives and ½ or ¾ cup of sun-dried (bitter) Calabrian black olives. Remove seeds if needed. Rinse with cold water and drain.
1. The Eggplant – In a large skillet, bring grape seed oil up to temperature. Cook eggplant until lightly brown, remove. Add more olive oil only when necessary, eggplant will soak it up. Set the eggplant aside in a bowl. Don’t over use the olive oil, eggplant has a tendency to soak up the oil, but will release some as it approaches being done.
2. The Caponatina – In a deep-dish large skillet or large sauce pan, cook the onions and celery in olive oil. Stir constantly and when the onions are just beginning to show some translucence reduce heat to medium.
Best served cold on Italian bread (panini) as a sandwich.
Store in refrigerator.
Please share, my grandmother would approve!
The Grape Gourmet
• health • wellness • culture • flavor •