Caponata is a Sicilian relish, a combination of cooked vegetables sweetened with raisins and pinenuts, and while it resembles the French dish ratatouille there are some not so subtle differences in texture and flavor.
While eggplant plays a prominent part in both dishes, the similarity ends there with the addition of briney green olives, and typically mediterranean herbs such as fresh basil, oregano and parsley, lots of garlic, crunchy celery and a relatively small amount of red bell pepper. The vegetables are cooked until just barely tender and the dish completed with red wine vinegar, tomato paste and a touch of sugar.
It is the bomb, whether used as a side dish as we did last night to accompany slices of mediterranean flavored meatloaf made from ground pork, italian sausage and lots of lemon rind (hit this link for the recipe), or on pizza, pasta, bruschetta or even on a burger or panini. In fact, if you'd like a sharper flavor, add some capers and garnish with anchovies and you'll have a whole different story to tell.
On the other hand, if you think you're more into side dish that'll take advantage of all the zucchini, onions, eggplant, bell peppers and fresh thyme you have in your garden at the moment, I've included a link to our favorite version of ratatouille. I daresay you'll not be disappointed with either.
Caponata (from JBug’s Kitchen adapted from Sunset magazine via myrecipes.com)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large eggplant, cut into ½ inch dice
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 cup chopped green olives
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained (optional)
Anchovies for garnish, optional
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add eggplant. Cook stirring occasionally until softened and golden brown – about 8 minutes. Remove from sauté pan and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to pan, lower heat to medium and add garlic. Sauté garlic for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then add chopped celery, red pepper and green olives. Cook stirring occasionally until vegetables are barely softened – about 5 minutes. Stir in water, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, raisins and peanuts. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes then return eggplant to the pot. Remove from heat and stir in salt, sugar, basil, oregano and parsley and add capers if using. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.
Ratatouille (an original from JBug’s Kitchen inspired by the George and Piret Munger Cookbook)
¾ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 white onion, cut into 1” cubes
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1” cubes
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1” cubes
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise then cut into ½” pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato sauce
Sprinkle eggplant with salt and place on paper towels, in a single layer. Cover with more towels and place a cutting board along with a heavy pan on top. Let sit for 30 minutes. Remove from towels and set aside.
Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in large sauté pan on high heat until very hot. Add eggplant and cook for 5 minutes, tossing well, until browned. Add remaining oil to same pan and add onion, peppers and zucchini and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, oregano, parsley, pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, garlic and eggplant and cook approximately 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce and cook until sauce is thick. Hold at room temperature for serving. Garnish with additional parsley and black olives if desired.
A year ago - Crab Cakes and a Peach Pie
Two year's ago - Asian Pork Salad