California Central Coast Recipes
When Summer finally comes, one of the first seasonal recipes we love to make is Caponata. Caponata is a sweet-sour vegetable compote made with Eggplant. In some parts of Italy every family has it's own carefully guarded secret recipe. Since you readers are all part of our extended family, here is our "secret recipe" for you to enjoy.
We like to serve Caponata as an appetizer with wine, so the traditional version is usually a bit too sweet for our tastes. This version uses a white wine reduction and a "trito" of aromatic vegetables for just enough sweet-sourness to match with a fine white wine.
The key ingredient is the eggplant. It is essential that the eggplant be fresh and firm so it retains it identity in the Caponata. Otherwise if it is pithy, it will absorb too much oil and become soggy and fall apart.
Preparation time: 20 minutesCooking time: 30 minutes
1 Medium Eggplant (about one pound) , un-skinned and cut into small cubes (about 1/2" size)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus a couple tablespoons extra
1 cup Sweet White Onion coarsely chopped
1 cup Carrots coarsely chopped
1 cup Celery coarsely chopped
1 cup Dry White Wine
2 cups Crushed tomatoes
2 sprigs Fresh Thyme
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives cut into slivers
1 Tablespoons Capers squeeze to remove excess liquid
1 Place the Oil Olive in a large stainless steel Dutch oven over medium heat.
2 Add the eggplant. At first the eggplant will absorb all the oil, but do not add extra oil, as the eggplant cooks, it will release the oil back. Saute until the eggplant is cooked and slightly browned (about 5 minutes).
3 When done, remove the the eggplant with a slotted spoon, and reserve for later.
4 Into the same pan, add the carrot, celery and onion. Cook until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). If the mixture seems a bit dry add the extra olive oil now. Cook until the vegetables are sweet, but still have a bit crunch.
5 Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and over medium high heat reduce the wine by two thirds.
6 Add the crushed tomatoes and thyme and cook the mixture for 10 minutes. If the mixture seems a bit too dry, add a little extra white wine or water.
7 Add the cooked eggplant, olives and capers to the mixture and continue to cook for another 10 minutes to allow all the flavor to be absorbed.
8 When done, remove the Caponata from the heat and allow to cool. Correct the seasoning for salt, then place the mixture into a container and refrigerate for a day.
9 Serve the Caponata at room temperature as an appetizer, or a side dish relish.
We like to serve Caponata on a hot evening as a chilled appetizer with pieces of toasted baguette.
Because of the lower sweetness and the aromatics in the trito, This version pairs very well with just about any chilled fruity dry white wine like a dry Riesling or a young low-oak Chardonnay.