Katie Cooks for Casey!
As summer winds down to its end we have to take advantage of all the eggplants the garden had to offer for this summer. This recipe for caponata is my Nonna’s (Nana) and it is literally one of my favorite foods in the world. She lived with us growing up and she was everything to me and made me want to go to culinary school. My mother is a phenomenal cook as well-our kitchen was always producing something fabulous with them cooking and me learning to bake for as long as I can remember. Nana and my dad made our garden lush and productive-she could grow anything and make anything taste delicious. She cooked as she learned growing up in Italy-beautiful fresh ingredients that are perfect in their simplicity. And simple, whole foods are the best thing for a Top 8 or other allergy restricted diet. No label reading needed for a carrot!
This recipe is the perfect example of that mantra. Caponata is very similar to the French vegetable dish ratatouille and is traditionally Sicilian, which my family is not, but Southern regions of Italy have their own versions. It cooks slowly and melds all the flavors in the process. Sicilian caponatas are known to have raisins and pine nuts but this version does not. This is just a simmered dish of eggplant and other flavors added in different stages. That’s the key to a good caponata! Why? Well, because all the veggies in this dish cook on different timelines from the eggplant and you want to have them softened but not mushy or crunchy.
This caponata is a perfect way to get a great punch of flavor and all the good stuff veggies have to offer. The caponata’s briny acid from the tomatoes, olives and capers cuts richness so it’s amazing served with a charcuterie board, on toasted bread for bruschetta, on chicken cutlets, pork chops, or just on its own! So, grab your veggies and Dutch oven and make my sweet Nana Evladimira’s (changed to Evelyn at Ellis Island!) caponata and cheers to the transition to fall. Be safe and well and enjoy! 💙👩🏻🍳
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Eggplant – This is the foundation of the caponata. An important step is letting the eggplant sit salted for a few minutes to help draw out some acidity. Trust me, it’s a well worth it step! Look for firm eggplant and for the dimple on the bottom to be inward. That’s an old school trick my grandmother taught me-it usually means a less seedy eggplant.
- Tomato sauce – This can be homemade, canned or jarred, whatever you prefer. I won’t tell if it’s not homemade 😉, just use one that is seasoned as little as possible. You just need 8 oz. (1 c.), and don’t be tempted to add more because more moisture will come out as it cooks.
- Jarred capers/olives – Always see which brands are safe for your needs, especially when managing seed allergies as sometimes brined foods can have mustard snuck in there.
**As always, please check which brands are safe for your needs.**
Author: Katie Martino Lopez
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: About 1 hour +, or to your desired consistency
Total Time: About 1 hour 30 minutes
Yield: About 4-5 cups
- 2 Tbls. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped small
- 2 large stalks celery, large dice
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 medium eggplants, peeled and diced into ½” cubes
- 1- 8 oz. can (1 c.) can or homemade tomato sauce
- 1 c. green olives with pimentos, drained and roughly chopped
- 1 small jar capers (about 4 Tbls.), drained
- 1- 8 oz. can (1 c.) can or homemade tomato sauce
- 1 tsp. dried or 2 tsps. fresh oregano (be careful adding if your sauce has a lot)
- 1 Tbls. granulated sugar
- Peel the eggplant and slice in thick strips lengthwise. Lay eggplant on a single layer on a sheet pan covered with paper towels. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and lay another layer of paper on the eggplant, repeating the salting. Let it rest with the salt while you prep the rest. Don’t worry that the eggplant starts to brown, oxidation is normal once the skin is off.
- Prep the rest of the ingredients and set aside.
- Cut the eggplant into ½” pieces, keeping the cubes even so they will cook evenly. Set aside.
- In a heavy bottom large sauté pan or Dutch oven, sautee onion, celery and garlic on medium heat until soft, seasoning lightly with salt, about 5-7 minutes. If the heat is too high the vegetables won’t soften releasing water, only crisp on the outside. If too low, it will just absorb the oil.
- Add the eggplant and cook, stirring often, until the eggplant softens, about another 5-10 minutes. A pan without a wide surface area will take longer.
- Lower heat to medium-low and add tomato sauce and cook down slowly for about another 10 minutes.
- Add olives, stir well, season to taste, and cover the pan. Stir often so the caponata doesn’t stick and the condensation gets stirred in, thinning out the sauce. Cook down about another 10-15 minutes.
- Uncover and add capers, sugar, red wine vinegar and oregano. Cook briefly, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Cool and refrigerate for up to a week. The caponata gets even better after a day or two!
- Stir the caponata as it cools to redistribute the heat and to let the eggplant absorb the moisture let out of the other veggies.
- This is even better as it sits so make it ahead if planning a dinner or party.
- Freeze it! Break it down to 1 or 2 cup portions and wrap in freezer safe containers for up to 2 months, thawing in the refrigerator.
- Caponata is best at room temperature, the flavors come out the strongest!
As we all know, reading labels and preparing food when managing allergies is a job within itself with much responsibility. All the brands I use are ones that I have contacted, and Casey has eaten safely. That being said, I must remind…
Please do your own research when deciding which products and foods are safe for the allergies you manage. These are the ones that are safe for our needs but may not be for you. Everyone has different comfort levels with manufacturing and production procedures.
And, as a friendly reminder, always have 2 epinephrine auto injectors on hand!