Just look at this beauty. I’m a frequent customer at my local Eataly for their caponata. It’s just one of those prepared foods that’s delicious cold, full of flavor!!! and is yummy alone or paired with food (I like to eat it with the Eataly chicken salad which I know sounds weird but don’t knock it). Making my own caponata is something I had been toying with for ages, so this weekend I finally put myself up to the task. Actually, I picked up a JAR of caponata at the grocery store, looked at the ingredient list, which included, SUGAR and thought — I can definitely make this better myself — and with my own spin, of course:)
SHOPPING LIST: 2 eggplants, red onion, jalapeño, kalamata olives, capers, pine nuts (toasted), parsley, tomato paste, olive oil, salt, pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice your eggplants in half vertically, rub them with olive oil, salt and pepper on all sides and place them on a baking dish flesh-side-up. Bake the halved eggplants for 40 minutes or until they are soft to the touch.
While the eggplants are baking, slice your entire red onion and jalapeño into thin rings. (Remove the seeds if you don’t want your caponata spicy. I purposely chose to include jalapeños as at the “pepper” in my caponata for the spice factor. If you want it extra spicy you can always add a dash of red pepper flakes as well). In a saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tB. of olive oil and 1 tB + 1 tsp. of chopped garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add your sliced onions and jalapeños and continue cooking over medium heat until your onions are translucent. Add 2 tB. of tomato paste to your onion and jalapeños and mix well.
Remove your eggplants from the oven and give the four halves a rough chop. Add the chopped eggplants to your saucepan of sautéed onions INCLUDING THE JUICES. This is important as A. the juices are seasoned from the seasoning of the eggplants and B. the tomato paste needs a bit of moisture to get “saucy.” Once your eggplant is mixed in, continue cooking the mixture over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of halved kalamata olives and 2 tB. of capers and 1 tsp. of the caper JUICE as well. Mix well. In a smaller pan, toast your pine nuts for 5 minutes until nutty and golden brown and then add them to the mix. TASTE your caponata. At this time you will determine if you need any more salt and pepper to perfectly season your dish (or the aforementioned pepper flakes).
The finishing touch: 1/4 cup of freshly chopped parsley. Nothing like a generous sprinkle of fresh herbs to add a pop of color and vibrant herbaciousness before serving.
Personally, I PREFER the caponata room temperature (or even COLD from the refrigerator). It really gives a chance for the flavors to settle and come together. If you’re looking for a little extra BANG, top your caponata with a sprinkle of briny feta cheese. Or keep it vegan and just pair with a beautiful Barolo, as seen above! Barolo is always a good idea.