Caponata di melanzane
(Eggplant "caponata" )
It's rather common dish in Sicily, where it is served most often as hors d'oevre or even as a vegetable with dishes of cold meat or meat in gelatine.  
Region: Sicily
Preparation: Easy
Serves: 4 people
• 1 eggplant (about 2 to 2 1/2 lbs)
• 1 tbl coarse salt
• 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
• 4 large stalks of celery, cut into large dices
• 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
• 12 green Sicilian olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
• 4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and coarsely chopped
• 3 tbl capers, rinsed
• 2 tbl chopped Italian parsley
• 2 to 4 tbl red-wine vinegar
• 1 to 2 tsp sugar, or to taste
• 3 tbl tomato paste
• Salt to taste
• Pinch of freshly ground black pepper or to taste
• 3 tbl pine nuts (optional)
Peel the eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Set the colander on a plate or drainboard and let stand for about 20 minutes, or until the dark juices have drained off. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels.

In a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1/3 cup of the oil and add the celery and onion. Saute over low heat for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent but not brown. Add the eggplant and saute slowly until it begins to color. If the mixture is too dry, add the
remaining oil.

Transfer the vegetables to a heavy-bottomed 2 quart casserole dish or saucepan. Add the olives, anchovies, capers, parsley, 2 tbl of vinegar and 1 tsp of the sugar. Dissolve the tomato paste in 2/3 cup of wate and add to the dish. Simmer gently, partially covered for
about 10 minutes, adding a little water if needed to prevent scorching. Uncover and simmer another 5 minutes, or until the juices evaporate.

Season with the salt and pepper. Add the remaining sugar and vinegar and the pine nuts, if desired. Serve immediately, or chill for several hours, then serve at room temperature.
Caponata makes a delicious sauce for short pasta like penne. Use about 1/2 cup of caponata for each 1/4 lb portion of pasta. If serving at room temperature, add about 1 tbl of olive oil to the sauce so it will mix easily with the pasta. Just before spooning over the hot pasta, stir a little of the boiling water (about 1 tsp) into the caponata. Before serving, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.


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