This traditional family recipe is my favorite. Cocoa, the surprising ingredient here, gives this dish its clean finish. Other versions of caponata include bits of fried sweet peppers, pear slices and raw almonds and cinammon and cloves are also added.
This recipe makes a lot but keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks and also makes an unforgettable Holiday gift.
Makes about 9 1/2 cups.
8 young eggplant (4 to 5 inches long), cut in 1-inch cubes.
1 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup capers in wine vinegar, drained
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced celery (about 2 ribs)
1 cup chopped Sicilian olives in brine, drained
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut oil
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons baking cocoa
4 onions, thinly sliced (3 1/2 cups)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Place eggplant slices in colander, salt them, and let them sweat in the sink for 1 hour, then rinse and dry them.
In a small saucepan, add the celery to the boiling water and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Drain the celery, saving the water and set aside.
In a large skillet or electric frying pan, heat half the peanut oil. Add have the eggplant pieces and fry until softened and lightly browned, about 12 - 15 minutes. Drain the pieces on brown paper and continue with the remaining eggplant and peanut oil.
In the same skillet, heat the olive oil, add the onions, and saute until soft and glazed-looking, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat and mix in tomato paste, reserved celery water, olives capers, sugar, vinegar, and cocoa. Mix well and let the mixture simmer about 5 minutes.
Add the eggplant and the celery pieces to the skillet, and mix well to coat the pieces with the sauce. Simmer the mixture uncovered for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place the caponata on a serving platter, cover, and marinate several hours at room temperature before serving.
Note: Because this recipe makes a lot, I spoon the mixture into jars, cover, and store them in the refrigerator and use as needed. You may want to cut this recipe in half, although this caponata never lasts long in my house.
Variation: Serve the caponata in an eggplant that has been cut in half lengthwise and scooped out. Surround the eggplant with slices of Italian bread, lightly fried in olive oil.
This recipe was featured on show 402 - Two Caponatas.
This recipe is from Nella Cucina by Mary Ann Esposito.
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