... do as the Sicilian sailors do! Eat caponata! This past weekend, I made caponata to take to a baby shower and, as I assembled the beautiful ingredients on my cutting board, I thought, 'The perfect post for Wednesday...' When I started that day, I knew the dish as Sicilian but, other than that, I didn't know much about it.
When visiting Uncle Joe and Aunt Rae every summer when we were children (they are shown above in front of their home in Bellows Falls, Vermont), one of the appetizers served in their living room was caponata with buttery crackers. But theirs was not the homemade kind - it came from a small Progresso can and was simply called "Eggplant Appetizer." We all liked it, an odd thing for four boys who probably ate few vegetables. My mother searched for it in stores but it was not readily available in the suburban supermarkets where we shopped. So she searched for a recipe and found one, and began to make it herself. Happily, the recipe she used only improved on the canned stuff, which is still available. I saw a can the other day at Roma Imports and was tempted to get it, but sometimes it is best not to tamper with memories...
I have friends who say it would be great on pasta but I can't imagine that, though I am sure it would be fine. Tradition in our family was to serve it with bread or crackers, or on a bed of lettuce as a first course.
Tutti a tavola e buon appetito!
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick1 small can tomato paste
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (red wine vinegar works, too)
1/2 cup stuffed green olives, cut in half
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil in a large pot and, when hot, add the eggplant, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms. Stir to coat the vegetables, reduce heat and cook gently, covered, for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add remaining ingredients (easy on the tomato paste) and simmer, covered, until eggplant is tender and onions are soft - about 20-30 minutes. If it gets too thick, add a little water while it is simmering. Chill overnight and serve with bread or crackers, or on a bed of lettuce as a first course.