Caponata – A Celebration of Summer

Caponata – A Celebration of Summer

While I’m devoting a warm afternoon to chopping, sautéing, stirring and filling canning jars, it can be difficult to remember the point of all this: that winter is coming! As soon as the frost kisses the rows of tomatoes and eggplants in my garden, the harvest will essentially be over. So while there is time, preserving the harvest is a mandatory labor of love. My objective is rows of glistening jars, waiting for a chilly day when summer can be remembered through its distinctive flavors. And nothing is more emblematic of the summer’s assertive tastes than Caponata, a sweet-sour Sicilian eggplant “salad” made with capers, olives, tomatoes, celery artichoke hearts and onions.

I was first introduced to Caponata in 1986 when a friend gave me a copy of the cookbook, Cucina Fresca, for my birthday. (It has remained one of favorite cookbooks for almost 30 years!) Its recipe for Caponata has undergone several incarnations over the decades, most recently with the substitution of apple balsamic vinegar from the Philo Apple Farm, an addition that truly elevates the dish and gives it the signature stamp of the Anderson Valley.

CAPONATA

Makes 4 pints

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin
  • 1 lb vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Spanish green olives, stuffed with pimento, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup Bates & Schmitt Apple Balsamic Vinegar or other balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Mix together the eggplant cubes and sea salt and drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Pat dry with paper or kitchen towels. In a large non-stick skillet, saute the eggplant in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat until it begins to brown. Remove and reserve the eggplant.
  2. Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet ad saute the onion until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and celery and saute until the garlic becomes fragrant, about one minute. Add the reserved eggplant and remaining ingredients; stir to blend. Simmer gently until thick and slightly sticky, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Adjust for salt, if necessary.
  3. Serve at room temperature over grilled sourdough toasts, rubbed with a garlic clove.
  4. To preserve: while the mixture is still hot, fill sterile pint or half-pint mason jars to within 1/2″ of the top. Tamp down to remove air bubbles; wipe the rims clean and seal with new lids. Process in a water bath*, 15 minutes for half-pints, 20 minutes for pints. Check the seal before storing. If the seal is broken, store in the refrigerator.

*To download the USDA’s free Complete Guide to Home Canning, click here.