from one generation to the next
I’ve been making Sicilian Caponata for close to thirty years. My kids used to groan when I put caponata on the table, but my other half would nominate it as his all time favourite vegetable dish. My original recipe was basically ratatouille with olives and a slosh of balsamic vinegar added. It was nice, but continued reading and experimenting has led me to this current version, a huge flavour improvement on my first attempts, a delicious conglomeration of vegetables in an agrodolce sauce. Autumn is the very best time to make caponata, when the tomatoes, eggplants, red peppers and zucchini are at their best and fresh basil is still of top quality.
Caponata is delicious served hot with simple grilled meat, it’s a complete meal served with soft polenta, it makes a wonderful antipasto heaped on crostini and leftovers are delicious with a soft poached egg on top and crusty bread.
Breaking away from tradition, sometimes I add chunks of steamed potato, and sometimes a drained can of cannelini beans. This turns the caponata into a hearty meal.
1 large red capsicum, chopped into 3cm squares
1 eggplant, cut into 3 cm dice
6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chopped black olives
1 tablespoons anchovies, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Good grinding of black pepper
2 zucchini, cut into 3cm dice
2 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
Heat the oil in a large heavy based pan. Add the chopped peppers, and sauté over a medium heat until they begin to colour.
Add the eggplants, cover and allow the vegetables to sweat for a further 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic and anchovies and continue to cook until the tomatoes have collapsed and the anchovies have melted into the sauce.
Add the vinegar, olives, capers, then season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar. The sauce should be a mellow balance of sweet and sour.
Stir until all the ingredients are incorporated, then add the zucchinis and cook for a further 5 minutes. They should still be al dente.
Remove the caponata from the heat, stir in the basil leaves and pine nuts if you are using them.
This is serve 6 people as an accompaniment.