During the two years I lived in Sicily one of the many amazing things I discovered
and fell in love with on this multifaceted island was their extraordinary food. After
all these years, despite having explored many other outstanding cuisines, I must say
that my absolute favourite dish still is the Sicilian “caponata”.
The caponata is a vegetable dish, made with fried aubergines and stalk celery in a
hearty tomato sauce, enhanced with olives, capers, raisins and pine nuts. Most often
you eat it cold as a starter, maybe with a nice piece of bread and some local cheese.
It “triumphs in summer” because it is easily prepared, hearty and fresh, you can make
a big batch and it only gets better after being stored for some days in the fridge.
As with all famous local dishes, every Sicilian housewife has her own recipe and believes
this to be the very best, but I got mine from a very good friend, Eugenio, a wizard in
the kitchen and a caponata connoisseur.
If you (like me) love aubergines, this delicious blend of sweet and salty touches in a
tasty tomato sauce will convince you that Sicilian chefs know the way to a food lover’s
heart. You will probably get as addicted as me, too 😉
1 onion, chopped
5 small tomatoes / 400 g canned tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato puree
½ Tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ Tsp aceto balsamico
1 ½ Tsp brown sugar
1 pinch of cocoa powder
1 ½ dl stalk celery, chopped
2 medium sized aubergines
80 g green olives, pitted and cut into halves
1 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp pine nuts (dry roasted in a pan)
2 Tbsp sultanas (soaked in water)
20 basil leaves
Begin with the tomato sauce: fry the onion slowly in rapeseed oil. Add chopped
tomatoes/tomato pulp, tomato puree, salt and pepper and let simmer.
Put the tomato sauce aside to cool off.
Cut the aubergines into dices 1x1cm, put them into a bowl, sprinkle well with salt,
and let rest for 15 min. This procedure gets rid of excess moisture and
concentrates the flavor.
Rinse off the aubergine dices well, dry them with a kitchen towel.
Heat up olive oil in a pan.
Fry the chopped stalk celery, take it out of the pan, let it cool off.
Fry the aubergine dices, while constantly stirring. Remove from the pan,
let them cool off.
Blend the tomato sauce with a blender.
Mix together aceto balsamico, sugar and cocoa powder. Stir the mix into the tomato sauce.
Add fried celery and aubergine to the sauce.
Add olives, capers, pine nuts and raisins.
At last, tear basil leaves into smaller pieces and add them too.
Fill the caponata into glass jars and put them into the fridge. It actually tastes even
better after a day, when all the flavours have “married”. If you can wait that long..!
A piacissi! (“Buon appetito!” in Sicilian)