Caponata is incredibly delicious. It is the perfect end-of-the-summer-garden dish to prepare. This version “twisted” or “evolved”, as I was searching through the garden. Only it’s roots are traditional. Then it wanders. And it wanders into pretty, delicious territory. Traditionally caponata is made with eggplant, peppers, onion, celery, capers, olives, tomatoes, herbs, some sort of acid (either lemon juice or vinegar), sugar and sometimes raisins. I always make a large batch around the holidays, as it keeps well in the fridge and it just keeps getting better and better. This is a great side dish, as well as a first course or appetizer. It’s equally good hot, warm or at room temperature. It’s good chilled, too, but the flavors aren’t as well formed because the cold masks them. This is a riff on tradition…kinda’. I just had the terrible realization that I’ve never shared my traditional caponata recipe with you. Well, shame on me. I’ll have to get right on that.
What makes this “twisted” is the addition of dried currants, for some sweetness, pomegranate molasses, for the acidic balance and allspice, just because it is mind-bendingly good and seems to compliment eggplant really nicely. I added capers, too, though they are usually added to the more traditional version, as well. The amounts given are flexible. This is what I used, but you can add, increase or decrease the amounts…find your happy spot.
As I wandered through the garden, I found some lovely Carmen red peppers. These are sweet pepper, not hot and just the most gorgeous red. But you could certainly use any bell pepper. I used a leek, instead of the more traditional onion and a variety of pear, plum and cherry tomatoes. And of course, eggplant. This is a much faster version to prepare than the traditional version; it took about 20 minutes from start to finish.
I prepared the eggplant using the cornstarch dusting like we did in the Lebanese-Style Eggplant with Tomatoes, Garlic and Mint, so I won’t repeat how to do that. Just go there and check it out. I just barely browned the eggplant chunks, as I wanted the eggplant to retain a good bit of its texture, so it wouldn’t be mush at the end. I always leave the skin on the eggplant, but remove it if you prefer.Do I have pictures of the finished product? Of course, I don’t. I was too busy enjoying it and then I shared the rest with a friend. So, you’ll just have to use your imagination. But, it was (note that past tense) delicious and a stupifyingly good way to use end-of-the-season produce still in your garden.
- 3 smaller eggplants, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 3 cups) and ready to fry
- 1 small sweet red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
- 1 leek or medium onion, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 1 cup)
- 1/3 teaspoon garlic granules (see NOTE)
- Vegetable or olive oil (about 2-3 tablespoons) as needed
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water
- 1/3 cup dried Zante currants
- 1 good cup tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inche chunks (about 8-10 cherry tomatoes)
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1-2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- Sugar or honey to correct the sweetness (optional—I didn’t use it)
- 1/3 cup toasted, coarsely chopped walnuts or pistachios
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Drizzle in some oil; add the eggplant chunks (they should have been salted and coated with cornstarch) to the pan. Sauté, shaking the pan and flipping the eggplant occasionally, until they just begin to color, but are still quite firm, about 4 minutes. Add some additional oil; toss in the peppers and leeks. Continue to cook over medium heat, until them begin to become slightly limp, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, the stock (or water) and the currants. Lower the heat and continue to cook for about 3-4 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken slightly. Stir in the tomatoes, herbs, red pepper flakes and allspice. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens and the eggplant is slightly softened and the veggies are done, but aren’t too soft, unless you want them to be that way. This will take about 5-10 minutes, depending of what texture you want the mixture to have. Stir in the capers and pomegranate molasses. Simmer for 1 minute. Add the nuts; taste and correct the seasoning. Add more molasses, if you want it sharper and some sugar, if you want more sweetness. This is best made ahead and will keep for at least 1 week in the fridge. Serve warm, hot or at room temperature for best flavor.
NOTE: I used Carmen sweet red pepper instead of a bell pepper. I would normally add 3-4 large cloves of garlic, sliced, which will be much more intensely garlicky.
Twisted Caponata Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2019. All rights reserved.
This can be eaten on toasted pita bread triangles, crackers, served as a first course or as a side with some grilled fish or chicken. I think the currants may just be a keeper. I really like both their texture and flavor. I usually don’t add raisins to the traditional caponata, but some people do. I’m “leavin’ it all up to you!”