Bursting with fresh summer flavors, Caponata is one of my favorite dishes to make when eggplant, tomatoes, and basil come into season.
I first tasted Caponata at a class on Italian side dishes at Cook Like An Italian led by Monica Pesoli. She cooked each main ingredient separately, then simmered them together with white wine vinegar and fresh herbs. Caponata is full of distinct flavors that go perfectly together.
More recently, I’ve been going through Lidia Bastianich’s 2017 cookbook Lidia’s Celebrate Like An Italian and discovered her Caponata recipe. The recipe below is based on the one in her book. You can serve it as a side dish (warm or chilled) or as an appetizer (after it is cooled, chop into small pieces and serve on crostini).
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium eggplant, ½ inch cubes
- 1 medium zucchini, ½ inch cubes
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, peeled, seeded, cut into ½ inch squares
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ¼ cup pitted green olives, chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons organic sugar (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
- Heat large sauté pan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add ¼ cup olive oil, then add eggplant in a single layer. You can do two batches if all of the eggplant does not fit in a single layer. Sauté eggplant, letting it turn golden brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large prep bowl.
- Add remaining ¼ cup olive oil, and repeat with zucchini. Remove zucchini with a slotted spoon (to leave oil in the pan) to the bowl with the eggplant.
- Add onion and celery to the pan and sauté about 5 minutes.
- Add red bell pepper, raisins, olives, capers, pine nuts, sea salt, and red pepper flakes and sauté until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, white wine vinegar, and sugar (if using). Simmer until liquid has evaporated and tomatoes are well incorporated.
- Add fresh herbs and toss together.
The last few summer menus I made with caponata included:
- Wild salmon, polenta, caponata, and grilled broccolini
- Pacific rock cod with capers and white wine sauce, risotto, caponata, and caprese salad
- Ocean perch with white wine sauce, basmati rice, caponata, and caprese salad
Some other summertime dishes you may want to try: