Caponata (Sicilian: capunata) is a Sicilian eggplant (aubergine) dish consisting of a cooked vegetable salad made from chopped fried eggplant and celery seasoned with sweetened vinegar, with capers in a sweet and sour sauce.
Numerous local variations of the ingredients exist with some versions adding olives, carrots and green capsicum (bell peppers), and others adding potatoes, or pine nuts and raisins.
There is a Palermo version that adds octopus, while an aristocratic Sicilian recipe includes lobster and swordfish garnished with wild asparagus, grated dried tuna roe and shrimp. However, these last examples are exceptions to the general rule of a sweet and sour cooked vegetable stew or salad.
Today, caponata is typically used as a side dish for fish dishes and sometimes as an appetizer, but since the 18th century it has also been used as a main course.
A similar Neapolitan dish is called cianfotta. The dish is also popular in Tunisian cuisine.
- 100ml olive oil
- 3 large eggplants, cut into 2cm cubes
- 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped
- 4 pitted green olives, and halved
- 4 pitted black olives, and halved
- 2 teaspoons capers, soaked if salted
- ¼ cup raisins
- 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced (save some of the leaves for garnish)
- 50ml red wine vinegar
- handful toasted pine nuts and celery leaves
- 8 slices ciabatta
- olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 clove garlic
- Pour the olive oil into a large heavy-based saucepan or casserole, place over a medium heat and add the cubed eggplants. Cook for a good 15-20 minutes until they are soft. Scoop the eggplants out of the pan – you should be left with some olive oil.
- Add the tomatoes and cook slowly, so they break down and turn to a soft mush, then add the eggplants back to the pan.
- Now put in the olives, capers, raisins, celery and vinegar, season well and cover with a lid. Cook over a low heat for 40 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft. Stir gently so it doesn’t break up too much; the stew should smell sweet and sour.
- When the caponata is cooked, leave to cool slightly while you make the bruschetta.
- Heat a griddle pan, drizzle the bread with olive oil and griddle until toasted and lightly charred on both sides, then rub with a garlic clove and season.
- Serve the warm caponata scattered with the celery leaves and pine nuts, with bruschetta on the side.