I love Italian food 24/7, but there’s something about buying a slew of gorgeous veggies at the late summer Farmers’ Market that makes me want to make mounds of vegetable antipasti.
This Eggplant Caponata from Top Cheftestant (and super-hot Siena Tavern chef/owner) Fabio Viviani’s new cookbook, Fabio’s Italian Kitchen (Hyperion, 2013), has the sweet and sour flavor that really gets my taste buds going. I’ve served it hot, cold and at room temperature, with a platter of Italian cheeses and cured meats, as a surprise element in a sandwich, or a simple side dish for roast chicken. This is one versatile dish!
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced small
- 1 1/2 cups olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 large eggplants, half the skin removed in strips with a vegetable peeler, cut into 1” chunks
- 1/2 cup capers in water, drained
- 1 1/2 cups pitted green olives, sliced
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 cups tomato sauce (ideally homemade!), mixed with 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves only
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Fresh mint leaves for garnish
1. In a large Dutch oven, combine the celery, carrots and onion with the olive oil. Cook over medium heat until the veggies are nicely caramelized, then add garlic and cook another 3 minutes.
2. Next add eggplant, tossing and stirring the chunks as they heat up to help them absorb all the oil. Once they’ve released a bit of water, turn the heat to high and keep stirring. After about 10 minutes, the eggplant will start to get softer and will reduce in size. Then add the capers, olives and pine nuts and cook for another 5 minutes.
3. Add brown sugar and vinegar, and as soon as the vinegar has reduced, add the tomato sauce/paste mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes and add basil and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until tomato sauce is thickened and there is no trace of liquid left.
4. Remove from heat and let rest about 30 minutes. Serve with lemon zest and mint on top.