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Caponata

This dish is a mind blower and is amazingly versatile. It is loaded with flavor and is good served hot, cold, as an appetizer with pita chips or grilled bread and fresh goat cheese, as a side dish with a piece of grilled fish or even by itself. It is truly spectacular, but does make quite a bit so plan on making it for a dinner party or have some friends you can share it with. They will love you even more once they try this dish.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 - 10
Author The Cowgirl Gourmet begged a friend for the recipe who got it from Better than Store-Bought by Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Bolchie (1979 version)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. of unpeeled eggplant  cut into 3/4" pieces
  • 1 tablespoon coarse Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil divided into two 1/4 cups
  • 1 cup coarsely diced yellow onion 1/2" dice
  • 3-4 medium red bell peppers chopped into 3/4" cubes (to make 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped celery 1/2" dice
  • Ripe Italian-type tomatoes about 8 medium, lightly pureed in a food processor or blender to make 1 3/4 cups puree and chunk combo
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup pitted black olives sliced
  • 1/4 cup capers the smallest available, plus another Tablespoon if desired
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the eggplant with the coarse salt and toss the cubes. Let them drain in a colander for 30-60 minutes, then pat them dry with paper towels. As it sits, you will see a dark liquid emitted and that is the "bitterness" of the eggplant.

  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  3. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 12" skillet and saute the onion, peppers and celery over moderately high heat for 5 minutes, stirring as it cooks.

  4. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and let it heat. Once it's hot, add the eggplant and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, red wine vinegar, sugar and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

  5. In the skillet (if the handle is oven-proof) or transfer to a baking dish, bake the caponata uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the olives and capers and stir well. Bake another 30 minutes or a little longer until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently to get it to the right consistency which is thick not liquidy.

  6. Cool the caponata, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate in a covered dish for 24 hours before serving. The caponata will keep for a week in the refrigerator or at least six months if placed in the freezer in plastic containers.