My favorite way to serve caponata is at room temperature as an appetizer. When served at this neutral temperature, the medley of flavors in this dish is on full display. Each ingredient still bears its unique flavors while contributing to the whole.
|See below for my tasting note.|
The most important thing is to use the best quality ingredients. This dish doesn’t mask a thing. Instead, it amplifies the flavors of each ingredient, and that’s part of its magic. Many recipes will tell you to peel the tomatoes, but in this case we’re using grape tomatoes for visual appeal and their bittersweet flavor. You could also use plum or vine tomatoes, in which case you should blanch and peel them.
3 - 4 Italian eggplants, about 2 pounds (or look for a mix of colors; smaller is better)
1 large yellow onion, small dice
4 –5 stalks of celery, large dice
1 pound of grape tomatoes, sliced in half with seeds removed
1 cup green Italian olives, sliced in half with pits removed
2 tbls of capers, rinsed
7 tbls of red wine vinegar
2 tbls of sugar
1 bunch fresh basil
4 tbls Extra Virgin olive oil
salt and pepper as needed
1 loaf Italian bread
grape seed oil (for frying)
Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. At the same time, place a large sauté pan over a medium flame and pour enough grape seed oil in to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is hot, place the eggplant into the sauté pan. (Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. You may need to fry the eggplant in two batches.) Fry the eggplant on one side until golden brown and then flip to achieve the same sear on the other side. Once both sides have been cooked, remove from the pan and to drain on paper towels.
Set up a small ice bath. Now place the large dice of celery into the salted boiling water. Blanch for three to four minutes or until the color becomes a deep vibrant green. Pull the celery from the pot and place into the ice bath for no more than one minute. Then drain and set aside.
Cut the eggplant slices into a large dice with a very sharp knife, remember they are soft from being fried and make sure to keep the skin on the eggplant.
At this time you are ready to begin the final assembly of the dish.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan. Once hot, add the onions and season with a pinch of salt. Allow the onions to cook for three minutes. Now add the olives, tomatoes and celery and stir together. Allow to cook for another five minutes.
Taste for seasoning and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
Move the entire contents of the pan to a serving dish.
If you are looking for room temperature, allow the dish to sit for up to an hour before serving. For hot temp, allow only ten minutes. Or for cold, place under refrigeration for two to three hours.
You can plate this with the toasts on the plate and the caponata. Or serve family style.