By popular demand, my recipe for caponata, the Sicilian classic made with egg plant and other vegetable delights.
(TIP: Hover over the blue highlighted words in the text to get a definition.)
The other day, I tweeted the photo above of the caponata which I had made for my dinner—it was taken on my mobile which is why it’s not the best picture. It was followed by several requests for the recipe, so here you are. This is caponata as I was taught to make it: as we will see below, it’s one of several variants and I am sure that there are many other family versions out there. However, this is authentic as it is made on its home island of Sicily.
Caponata is basically fried egg plant (aubergine) in a sweet and sour (agrodolce) sauce. The sauce is made from a huge variety of other condiments and vegetables which vary, as you would expect, according where the recipe is made. It’s usually associated with the island (and Region) of Sicily but it is also found just across the narrow straits of Messina in Calabria. There is a dish of the same name from Naples but that one doesn’t contain egg plant. I’ve always assumed that the name came from the presence of capers (capperi) in the dish—peperonata is made from peperoni (peppers not a spicy sausage in Italy) but apparently it comes from Spanish—Spain was a dominant power in Sicily and Naples for much of their history—which would also account for the Neapolitan dish (which also contains capers but I’m not saying anything).
Usually served at room temperature (which in a Sicilian summer could be described as tepid), the egg plants and tomatoes give it a tangy flavour, almost redolent of mature cheese, whilst the other ingredients sing sweet notes of salt and vinegar which combine to dance a Sicilian tarantella in your mouth. A welcome crunchiness is provided by pine nuts and, depending on the variant, celery.
This version is one from the province of Agrigento, famous for its southern facing coast and Ancient Greek temples. You can add garlic and chili pepper to create a hot and sour flavour and substitute almonds (a typical produce from Agrigento) instead of pine nuts. I’m using bell peppers here but they also use friggitelli when they are in season. Both the egg plant and peppers are deep fried. I tend to use a deep fat frier as it’s easier to regulate the temperature.