Friday, February 5, 2010

Caponata alla Siciliana

Caponata alla Siciliana
 (Sicilian Sweet and Sour Eggplant)
serves 6

Caponata, or Capunata in the Sicilian dialect, is a fantastically delicious dish from southern Italy which may be eaten warm as  a vegetable side dish, cold as an antipasto,  or room temperature on thin slices of  toasted French  or Italian bread as an hors d'oeuvres.  I've even known people who claim to "hate" eggplant to wax joyously over Caponata's  agrodolce (Italian for Sweet and Sour) taste.  The selection and handling of the eggplant is critical; choose firm eggplants with few seeds and avoid the temptation to cut it into too small a dice as the pieces will take on so much oil that they will become heavy and you won't be able to fully appreciate their creamy texture and flavour.

2 eggplants, cut into 1⁄2" cubes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced crosswise
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. golden raisins
2 tbsp. pine nuts
2 tbsp. capers, rinsed
12 pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. chiffonade basil
2 tbsp. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse Kosher salt
1.  Prepare the eggplant by removing the bitterness by placing the cubes into a colander, heavily salt and set over a large bowl or plate. Top with a plate weighted down with a (or several) large can(s) and allow to drain for 1 hour, the bitter liquid will pool in the bowl or plate. Discard the bitter liquid and rinse the eggplant cubes, pat dry with paper towels.
2.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  When the oil is hot add one-third of the eggplant and cook until golden brown, 7–8 minutes. Transfer the eggplant, using a slotted spoon, to a bowl. Repeat in batches of 1/3, adding additional 2 tablespoons of oil if necessary, until all the eggplant is cooked.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining oil, and onions; cook until soft, 14–15 minutes. Add tomatoes and celery and increase heat to medium; cook until tomatoes release their juices, 5–6 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar, and tomato paste; cook until thickened, 3–4 minutes. Add cooked eggplant, raisins, pine nuts, capers, olives, and adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook until hot. Transfer to a plate; let cool slightly. Top with basil and parsley. Serve at room temperature

Next Week's Posting:  Bistecca Trestevere con Rucola

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