One of the most famous Sicilian dishes is probably the caponata. This dish (“capunata” in Sicilian) is based on the Catalan caponada. The Catalans probably based their recipe on the French ratatouille, the Maltese kapunata or the moussaka found in the eastern Mediterranean.
In the 1700’s the caponata was a side dish to be eaten with the “capone”, a Mediterranean fish. Because a lot of poor people had no money to buy the fish, the caponata became a dish on its own and the fish was replaced by chopped fried eggplant. That’s how the caponata antica was born, the first recipe for the caponata. There are about 36 local variations on the recipe, with some versions adding olives, carrots and green bell peppers, and others adding potatoes, or pine nuts and raisins.
In the 1950’s the caponata became an appetizer and this tradition remains the same.
Ingredients for four people:
|800 grams eggplant||200 grams tomato sauce|
|500 grams celery stalks||150 grams capers|
|olive oil (*)||200 grams green pitted olives|
|200 grams onions||35 gram raisins|
|35 grams sugar||2 spoons balsamic vinegar|
|50 grams pine nuts||salt and pepper|
Wash the eggplant (do not peel it). Cut it into 1″ cubes and leave them for 30 minutes in salty water. Place the eggplant cubes in a colander. Set the colander in the sink and put a plate inside the colander so it is in direct contact with the eggplant. Place a weight, such as some heavy canned goods, for about half an hour on the plate so the plate will press down on the eggplant (the purpose is to squeeze some of the sometimes bitter juices out of the eggplant).
In the mean time chop the celery stalks and blanch them quickly. Bake them in a little bit of oil and then dry them. Wipe off the eggplant to remove as much of the salt and clinging juices as you can. Bake the eggplant cubes in oil until they become nice and brown. Leave them to dry and cool off on some kitchen paper.
Dissolve the sugar in the balsamic vinegar.
Method of preparation:
Chop the onions into small pieces and bake them gold in some oil. Add the celery, the green olives, the capers, the pine nuts, the raisins, the tomato sauce, some fresh basilicum, salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar mix to the eggplant mixture and reduce the liquid by half. The mixture should be thickened to “dip” consistency. Take away from the fire and let the “caponata” cool in a bowl. The caponata should be refrigerated overnight and brought back to room temperature before serving.
(*) If you don’t like to bake in olive oil you can use peanut oil instead.