When I hear the word Caponata, the first thing that pops into my head is a Godfather-esque movie that has its origins in some remote fishing village in Sicily. For all my romanticism with gangster style movies, this Caponata is actually quite harmless. Dark, Complex, Delicious and even originating from Sicily…but definitely harmless.
I stumbled upon this gem of an antipasto, serendipitously. I had a large purple Eggplant at home that begged to be made into something other than a Baingan Barta and three Italian cookbooks that lay invitingly next to the kitchen table. Random scans of the index revealed ‘Caponata’ under the Eggplant category. Jamie Oliver’s book – Jamie’s Italy, had a rustic looking stew that begged for some bread to dip into its bucolic goodness. And then I came upon Ritu Dalmia’s book that advocated spiking Caponata with some chocolate! And finally, my trusted Inner Circle Family Cookbook had a picture of the Caponata, glistening with olive oil and green olives, piled high over crostini. Naturally, I had to make it.
This recipe involves a fair amount of oil and is not for the faint hearted. But the redeeming factor is we use good quality EVOO and everyone needs a bit of good fat in their systems. (It’s a good lubricant for aging joints and definitely keeps the brain sharp – promise!). After you have made peace with the amount of oil used, it is a pretty simple dish, start to finish. Many people serve Caponata on the side of a fish dish, or even as a vegetarian main course by itself – but I have the greatest pleasure in storing it in bottles and using it as an antipasto when I crave something more robust that a cheese spread on bread.
There are different versions of this recipe – with capers, without capers, with olives, with celery, with parsley, with onions, without onions, some carrots, absolutely no carrots. So you basically get to play with it to suit your fancy. I like mine with onions, olives, capers and loads of parsley. And I nicked Ritu’s idea of using chocolate – pure genius!