I buy almost all of my produce at the farmers market during the summer. I love my Saturday mornings at the market, walking up and down the long row of produce, flowers, baked goods, meats and cheeses and anything else that might be there, deciding what I must have for the coming week. However, I was at the grocery store to pick up a few things the other day and I made the requisite trip through the produce section, just in case. There I found a single eggplant, forlornly sitting on the "seconds" shelf. One pretty nice sized eggplant for sale for 60 cents. I couldn't just leave it there, it looked absolutely fine still, nice and firm with no obvious bad spots at all. So into my cart it went. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but I knew I could figure that out quite quickly once I got home.
After a quick search online, it became obvious to me what I should make, caponata. This is not something I had made before, but I had a couple of recipes pinned, and had just watched an episode of the Barefoot Contessa where she served caponata on an antipasto platter. So after I looked through a couple of recipes, I went to work creating my very own caponata using the ingredients I had in the fridge. In the end it turned out absolutely delicious! While I don't know what a good Italian would say about my caponata, in the end I don't really care. I loved it, and when cooking for yourself that's really all that matters.
I wasn't sure what caponata was exactly when I decided to make it, so I did a little online research. It is apparently a sweet and sour Sicilian eggplant dish typically served as an appetizer or side, but can make a wonderful vegetarian main dish as well. (If I'm getting any of this wrong, please let me know!) Along with what is in my version, most of the recipes I looked at had celery and capers, neither of which I had, so I went without. I also threw in some cilantro which I'm sure is not Italian at all, but I had some in the fridge and I love it so in it went. If I'd had parsley I would have added that, but not this time! I'm sure I missed other "essential" elements of a traditional caponata as well, but again I don't really care as long as my tastebuds are satisfied!
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 eggplant (about 1 pound) cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 1/2 sweet bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 1/2 red onion cut into 1/4 inch dice
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 6-8 olives, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- Salt, to taste
- Cilantro, to finish
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the eggplant, bell pepper, and red onion. Saute for 8-10 minutes, until everything is starting to wilt an brown just a little.
Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Then add the tomato paste and let it caramelize for 1-2 minutes before stirring into the vegetable mixture. Add the olives and stir again.
Pour in the chicken stock and cider vinegar and stir it all to combine. Taste the mixture and then add the sugar, cayenne and salt to taste. Let the caponata bubble away over medium low heat until thickened and everything is cooked through.
At the end of cooking add in the cilantro for a fresh finish.