Hankering after recipes for summer I’d noticed this Sicilian Caponata earlier in the week as I’m looking for new recipes that I can eat at room temperature. It seems there are regional variations of this dish all over Sicily, including versions that go with peppers/capsicums rather than aubergine. Have to admit I haven’t cooked aubergine in a long time – shameful! And yet, this is not only easy to cook it’s delicious as well.
How it tastes at room temperature I still don’t know as I wolfed this last night without olives and capers – yes, I forgot to add them. Glad in retrospect as without them this is equally as good. It’s sticky, gooey and sweet which I didn’t really expect. What surprised me was how good the celery tasted sautéed this way. I do use a lot of celery in stocks/soups but never normally eat it. Such a simple combination of ingredients here that rocked my palette. It’s not difficult to imagine why this is cooked in Sicily so often.
For my lunch today I had this with sautéed potatoes which was really nice. If I have to gripe about this dish it’s purely as there wasn’t enough aubergine. I bought a small one as they tend to be less bitter. As I’m cooking this again over the weekend I’ve bought two to see if that’ll be better with the amount of onion and garlic used. I’m especially pleased, though, with soaking the aubergine in salt and water. I normally roughly cube them, grind salt over the pieces, leave them in a colander and then rinse them really well. Soaking for an hour helps to prevent the aubergine from acting like a sponge. To the extent I was surprised at how little oil I used. Talking of which I’ve read that in versions of this sunflower oil is used instead of olive. As I’ve ran out of the latter I went with. Rapeseed oil would be better, and healthier, to use as the heat is quite high. Then, once the dish is ready, lots of extra virgin olive oil drizzled over. The other ingredient that isn’t generally added is any form of chilli. Here, regardless of using a small amount of cayenne it’s not really essential. Neither are the additions of white or red wine vinegar and sugar. Still, I’m going to add those as options.
Update: I’ve just cooked this for a second time and I still can’t quite believe how tasty this is. I’ve only made minor changes, like adding the capers before the tomato purée and the smell was heavenly. Their taste looses out a little. And yet, their aftertaste is sublime. I love ’em! As I’m using so few ingredients I’m astonished at how good this is. And, it’s undoubtedly the best vegan suitable dish I’ve ever made. How did I survive summers without this especial dish!
Caponata, with aubergine, capers and olives
Recipe Inspired by: Sicilian Caponata – http://www.petersommer.com/sicily-travel-country/italian-recipe-caponata/
- oil, extra virgin olive oil
- 1 x dried bay leaf, ripped
- 350g (12.34 oz) x onion, peeled and chopped
- 20g (0.70 oz) x garlic, peeled and chopped
- 100g (3.52 oz) x celery stalks, washed and finely chopped
- 1 or 2 x small aubergine or 250 – 400g (8.81 – 14.10 oz), washed, roughly cubed, covered in a dst salt and soaked in water to cover for up to an hour – try to weight them down with a heavy lid or plate to immerse them completely
- 1 x tbsp capers in vinegar
- 1 x heaped dst tomato purée
- 20g (0.70 oz) x pitted green olives, quartered
- handful of pine kernels or sunflower seeds, dry roasted
- white or red wine vinegar – optional
- sugar, to sweeten if using vinegar
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- Put a large heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 4 (out of 6). When onions are ready and the pan is hot pour in enough oil to cover its base. Add the bay leaf and allow to infuse for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add the onions and stir frequently. When they start to turn a pale golden reduce heat to No 3. When turning golden reduce heat to No 2.
- As the celery took me ages to prep I added them before I reduced the heat to No 2 within the instruction above and continued to cook.
- Push the onions to the sides, pour in a glug more oil and add the garlic. Allow several minutes for the garlic to cook. Transfer mixture to a suitable bowl.
- After draining and rinsing the aubergine pieces squeeze out as much excess water as possible. I did this with my hands rather than using a very clean t-towel. Using a large heavy-based saucepan or pan/skillet heat on No 4. When pan is hot add a little oil and add the aubergine. Shake the pan vigorously to prevent sticking. Continue to cook until nicely golden all over, reducing heat if necessary. Any fleshy bits that do stick grab them with a fork before they burn and add to the onions. Make sure each piece of aubergine is nicely soft as otherwise it’ll be too dense to be palatable. Larger pieces could be cooked for longer if necessary, adding the cooked aubergine to a suitable bowl. When all of the aubergine is thoroughly cooked add the capers and stir through. Allow them about 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato purée and the bay leaf and stir through to prevent any scorching. Cook for about 4 – 5 minutes to make sure the rawness of the tomato purée is cooked out, reducing heat if necessary. After that time add the onion mixture and stir through to reheat.
- You can either cook with the olives, added to the above instruction with the onions. Or just add them at the end.
- If using pine kernels add a handful to a dry pan over low heat until nicely roasted.
- As for any needed vinegar I’m out on that one. I just loved the sweetness of this dish without any further acidity. With the inclusion of the olives and capers they give enough sourness for my palette.
- If you need instructions on how to sauté cubed potatoes then please refer to this post.
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