Before making this recipe, I had (sadly) never enjoyed the flavor explosion that is caponata. The first time I heard of it was watching Ina make a variation on Barefoot Contessa. Raisins? Pinenuts? Eggplant? Olives? Balsamic vinegar? What the what? I am a fan of bold, sassy flavor combos, and bookmarked this Italian salad in my mind to make eventually. Well, I’m glad to say that I finally did, spurred by none other than the farmer’s market. A girl can’t say no to a basket of eggplant for $3.
Caponata is an agrodolce, or sweet and sour, Sicilian salad, traditionally created using eggplant, tomatoes and capers (hence the name). However, in my usual laziness, I did not have capers on hand so I left them out (hence capo-“nada”, wink, wink), and subbed olives in their place.
Although this dish has many ingredients, it was super easy to make. Once you complete all of the chopping, all that’s left is dumping everything in stages into a giant pan. And that’s all, folks!
You can enjoy this salad cozied up next to a veggie burger, mixed into a mound of pasta, or if you’re really into this stuff like I am, as a giant bowlful all by itself. This would also be a fantastic appetizer to bring to a party accompanied by some toasted slices of Italian bread.
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 3 tbsp pine nuts
- 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tbsp red pepper flakes (yes, this measurement is correct!)
- 10 cups eggplant, diced into 1″ cubes
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped green olives
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 15oz can tomatoes (see note)
- 1/3 cup basil, julienned
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a very large rimmed pan. Add the onion, raisins, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. Sautee for 5 minutes until soft.
- Add the eggplant, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and sugar and cook for 5 more minutes.
- Throw in the rest of the ingredients and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 more minutes, or until the eggplant has cooked through. You can enjoy this at room temperature, but I also think it is equally yummy warm.