I traded some of my squash for eggplant last week at our CSA pick-up site. I never thought I would be trading for eggplant but I have found enough recipes I really like that have eggplant in them. This is one of those recipes.
Caponata is intended to be put on crusty bread. It is a Sicilian eggplant dishes that classically contains green olives, capers, eggplant, and pine nuts. I decided to use some of the caponata as a sauce for chunky pasta. The rest I saved to eat as an antipasta.
My only complaint about this recipe is the amount of oil used. I think next time I'll decrease the oil used to caramelize the onions and celery to 1/4 - 1/3 c instead of a 1/2 c. I also strayed from the original recipe and added pine nuts and parsley. The capers were different than the kind I normally used. You can find capers packed in salt in the deli department of some grocery stores (Central Market has them and I am guessing Whole Foods would too. I've also found them at an Italian deli in town). They have a different flavor than the ones in balsamic vinegar. If you can't find the capers packed in salt, the capers in balsamic vinegar will work fine as well. Just be careful the vinegar taste isn't too strong for the dish.
Curtis and I loved it. Even M found it good (after initial complaints about how she didn't like that--before tasting). J passed on it though.
Just a warning: This dish needs to sit 8 hours (or more) before serving. I made it in the morning and let it sit all day. You can also make it the night before to eat the following day.
adapted from Gourmet magazine
2 lb small eggplants
2 t fine sea salt (or 1 T kosher salt)
1 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1 c onion, chopped
4 medium celery ribs, cut thinly crosswise
1/3 c large green Sicilian olives (1 3/4 oz), pitted and coarsely chopped
1/3 c Italian capers, packed in salt (1 3/4 oz), rinsed well
2 T sugar, or to taste
1/3 c white wine vinegar
1 (14 oz) can diced or whole tomatoes, drained and chopped (to equal 1 c)
3 T pine nuts
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
Peel eggplants, leaving some strips of peel, then cut into 1-inch cubes and spread on half of a kitchen towel. Sprinkle eggplant with salt, then cover with other half of towel and weight with a baking sheet (or large cutting board) topped with 2 or 3 large cookbooks for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1/3 c oil in a heavy skillet over moderate high heat until hot, but not smoking, then cook onion, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 6 - 8 minutes. Add celery and cook, stirring, until onion and celery are deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add olives, capers, and 2 T sugar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally 20 minutes. If sauce is very acidic, add 1 -2 t sugar (to taste). Stir in pine nuts and parsley. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm, covered.
Rinse eggplant in a colander under running water, then squeeze dry in small handfuls. Heat remaining cup of oil in cleaned skillet over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking. Fry eggplant in batches, turning occasionally until tender and browned on all sides, 8 - 10 minutes per batch. Transfer as cooked to paper towels to drain, then transfer to a large shallow serving dish in an even layer. Spoon sauce on top, spreading evenly, and let stand, covered with a kitchen towel, at room temperature, at least 8 hours (for flavors to develop). Stir before serving.