Caponata (Eggplant Relish)

Caponata is a sweet and sour eggplant relish that represent the intensity of flavors of the southern Italian region. It combines eggplants with onions, tomatoes, olives, capers, sweet balsamic vinegar and pine nuts. Similar combination of flavors shows in many other recipes in Sicily. Every family in Sicily have their own version of caponata. Some people add raisins or peppers, other people prefer to omit the onions. This is my version of this relish. Caponata tastes better the next day and can be served on crostini as an appetizer or as a side dish for meats or fish.

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly chopped
  • 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 cups eggplants, slightly peeled and cut in cubes
  • 2 cups San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 ounces capers
  • 1 cup olives, pitted
  • 8 ounces almonds, toasted
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar

Sauté the eggplants with olive oil and salt until brown. (For a lighter version, brush the eggplants with olive oil on a baking pan and roast them in a 400F preheated oven until brown) Set aside. In the same pan, sauté onions and celery until just golden in color.

Add the tomatoes and sugar and cook on low heat until reduced and thicken. Add salt, pepper, half of basil, garlic and cook for 20 minutes on low heat. Add the capers and olives and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the eggplants, the vinegar and turn the heat off. Correct the seasonings and let it cool before serving.

Serve with chopped basil and pine nuts (or almonds). It will keep, covered, for a week in the refrigerator.