I am never a better citizen of the sidewalks of New York than I am when I have a newborn, or at least the variety we’ve been assigned twice now: those that can only be calmed by long walks in the stroller. And so we stroll, even though it’s unforgivably hot out, even though we rarely get out of the apartment early enough to enjoy those brief parts of the day when there’s an actual shady side of the street to hover on, even though we really don’t need anything else from the Greenmarket or anywhere else, we make up excuses so we have somewhere to go. On the best of days, we see people that we know and the neighborhood feels like something out of Mr. Rogers (although his is notably absent of the guy who yells outside my apartment all day about his superstitions and the clouds of secondhand decriminalized smoke we wade through). We bumped into my son’s old preschool teacher a few weeks ago, someone who likes to cook almost as much as me, and she said she’d recently made a big batch of caponata and had been having it with everything — for breakfast with an egg, in sandwiches for lunch and even with pasta for dinner and I thought that sounded absolutely brilliant. I just needed to learn how to make caponata.
I read a lot and I learned several things about this eggplant dish. First, definitely don’t try to exhaust yourself by finding a one/true/authentic version. Just about all are authentic and true and few match, because everyone makes it the best way they know how and that’s usually the way their grandmothers made it and you have to be out of your mind if think I’m going to argue with a Sicilian grandmother. However, I knew a few things: I knew that while I am completely okay with frying eggplant the authentic way that it’s totally cool if you’d like to just roast or sauté it. I wanted to stick to a core list of ingredients — eggplant, onion, celery, tomato, capers, olives, raisins, basil and pine nuts — because while you can add a whole lot of things — i.e. garlic, zucchini, sweet or hot peppers, anchovies — I had a hunch there’s enough going on in the flavor department with the core list that it wouldn’t need much more to taste good.
Finally, I wanted it to be truly and completely tangy. A good caponata is like a sweet and sour eggplant jam, or even a pickled Mediterranean compote, with both crunch and softness. The disappointing ones have an oily mouthfeel and no bright, dynamic flavor to back them up. When you have a good one, you’ll want to immediately dollop it on toast, or as we’re currently hooked on doing, nestling it against a thick slice of good, soft mozzarella on a slice of wholegrain bread. I wish all of my aimless wandering led to meals this good.
One year ago: Corn Cheddar and Scallion Strata
Two years ago: Zucchini Parmesan Crisps
Three years ago: Baked Orzo with Eggplant Mozzarella
Four years ago: Peach Butter
Five years ago: Peach Shortbread
Six years ago: Melon Agua Fresca, Cubed, Hacked Caprese and Tomato and Corn Pie
Seven years ago: Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs and Dimply Plum Cake
Eight years ago: White Bean Roasted Red Pepper Dip and Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Cornmeal-Fried Pork Chops and Smashed Potatoes
1.5 Years Ago: Kale and Quinoa Salad with Ricotta Salata
2.5 Years Ago: Multigrain Apple Crisps
3.5 Years Ago: My Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted, just a little, from this excellent Saveur recipe
I am a heathen (!) who rarely salts my eggplant, which generations of eggplant-cookers swear improves its texture and fry-ability. I don’t find it necessary to get a good flavor (less bitter, is the argument) or texture and laziness wins. But, should you wish to, simply toss your eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or two of coarse salt in a colander and let it sit/drain for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Press out as much extra liquid as you can, then spread the eggplant out on a paper towels to dry it as well as possible before continuing with the frying step. Then feel free to tell me what I’m missing.
If you cannot bear to use canned crushed tomatoes when fresh ones are so good, feel free to chop your own plum tomatoes very well until you reach 1 cup. I peeled mine first (I use this when I just have one or two and don’t want the extra step of blanching) and squeezed out most of the seeds for a more canned-like texture.
Enough olive oil to deep fry
2 pound eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 large yellow or sweet-variety onion, chopped medium-small
1 to 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1⁄4 cup water
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes (or use fresh, see directions up top)
6 ounces (about 1 cup) green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1⁄2 cup white wine vinegar
1⁄2 cup golden raisins (I used half for a less sweet caponata)
1⁄4 cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (I used 1 tablespoon, but sweeter is more traditional)
1⁄2 cup finely slivered basil
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted until golden and cooled
In a large skillet (12 inches is ideal), heat oil over medium-high heat. Once very hot, working in batches, fry eggplant cubes in one layer at a time, stirring and turning occasionally until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to drain eggplant over skillet, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately season with salt. Repeat with remaining eggplant. Transfer drained and mostly cooled eggplant to a large bowl.
Pour off all but 3 tablespoons olive oil, and reserve the rest for another use. Cook onions and and celery with salt and pepper over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add tomato paste and water and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add crushed tomatoes; cook for 10 minutes. Stir in olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes more. Transfer to bowl with eggplant, along with basil and pine nuts, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and let cool to room temperature before serving.
Do ahead: If you have time to spare, covering your cooling bowl of caponata with plastic and letting it sit for at least 2 hours gives an even more developed flavor. It’s even better on the second day. Keep it in the fridge and bring it out an hour before you plan to eat it to take the chill off. Caponata keeps for one week in the fridge.
148 comments on caponata
Oh yeah! We devoured this stuff when we were living in Sicily. You can get it super cheap essentially anywhere and it’s sooo fun to make it at home!
This looks delicious! Especially since I’m trying to eat a more vegetarian-based diet.
Yum! This sounds amazing, especially now that I’m in the eggplant camp. Also, where did you get that lovely bread??
Yay for not salting eggplant. I only did it once, and could not tell any difference in texture or fryability: all it did was add more time and work, and reduced the amount of salt on hand in my house.
Cannot wait to try this on everything!
Sounds like dinner! Maybe with a little Bulgarian Feta I have sitting in the fridge… Thanks Deb, I’ve been craving your moutabbal but it’s still way too hot to turn on the oven, this sounds like the perfect compromise!
Looks lovely, a couple comments (passed on from my Sicilian mother in law and lots of experience eating caponata in Sicilia) – I’m not sure about the dried fruit (have never seen it in a caponata in Sicily – apparently some people use it, but it’s not common, since Italains tend not to mix salty and sweet flavors), and the vinegar is way too much. A good caponata should be very oily, with just the tiniest bit of tang to it – also tomato paste or passata should only be used if fresh tomatoes are not available.
Bless Alex’s preschool teacher-
& Anna for taking you outside!
This looks crazy-good!
I *love* caponata, but I only made it for myself for the first time this summer. Totally agree that there’s no one true authentic way to make it. I’ve been doing an even simpler one based on Nancy Silverton’s version in Mozza with eggplant, onion, tomatoes, garlic, raisins, pine nuts, fresh thyme, and loads of sherry vinegar (and a kinda scary amount of olive oil, but it’s so rich and delicious…)
i cannot believe it,– i do not believe i have ever had caponata?! your preschool teacher friend’s idea of having it on everything (now that i see it) is completely convincing!! lol. i’m in. –going to the grocery store for this one and everything :)
Thank you for posting seasonally appropriate dishes. I check your site often and I almost always have the ingredients on-hand because your recipes correspond so well to the time of year. Even better, they always turn out well because your instructions are clear and well-tested. Thank you!!!
Hmm so yummy dish:) Fresh thyme, tomatoes, onion.. nuts .. everything is so tasty:) I’m waiting for your other posts!
so healthy + refreshing! I love the use of fresh herbs and tomatoes with the eggplant. This sounds absolutely delicious ; )
I literally just made this two days ago. But I’m the only one in the family that can eat this because I don’t know what gluten free options I can pair this with for them. Other than bread, what would you reccommend this be paired with?
I’m serving it on polenta
David Lebovitz has a great recipe for a chickpea flatbread called socca. It’s good with caponata, especially with some green salad and rosé!
We eat caponata on grilled swordfish
I only salt my eggplant if I’m going to be frying it, and even then I only do it if I remember/have enough time to let it just chill. This looks just like the sort of thing I love to have on hand- a dish that can be dressed up however, but that’s always the star.
OMG. You had me with your introductory sentence, “I am a heathen (!) who rarely salts my eggplant, which generations of eggplant-cookers swear improves its texture and fry-ability.” That’s me. Will try this recipe. Like… SOON!
Oh dear, Deb, once you have joined the dark (purple) side, you can never go back. I find a summer is not a summer unless I have eaten caponata dozens of times. It will become an obsession. I like your twist in serving it on bread and now, I will have to succumb and make one again. There, you have done it.
Love the pictures of your girl – adorable & how funny, the sardines travel! That’s how we travel, too (& that’s without the kids…).
This looks amazingly delicious! I love all the fresh ingredients!
Deb, you’ve put me in a pickle– I just bought everything I need for the tomato-eggplant orzo on your site. (Which, by the way, that lemon zest in it just MAKES the dish). What do you think of adding some here? And how necessary is the celery? (Do you need it for crunch?)
looks amazingly good!!
Did you ever try Christopher Kimball’s trcik of drying the eggplant in the microwave on double layers of coffee filters what were sprayed with PAM? It works quite nicely in drying out the eggplant and then proceeding with the recipe.
Yay for chopping your own tomatoes for this recipe since I have a bunch on my one acre-ish garden. And yay for eggplant. My Mom gave me 3 yesterday and honestly, I have no clue what to do with them! My instincts tell me…fry them in oil. My butt says “heck no” Thanks for this inspiration!!!
I’m with you until I got to raisins. I feel I’m having a hard time getting my head around raisins in this dish. I may try without. I doubt that it’ll kill the awesomeness completely, but if it tames it down, I’ll know what happened.
We are BIG caponata lovers in our family! My mom uses currants in place of raisins and for me it works better, not quite as sweet. Also, try grilling the eggplant, it raises it to a whole new level! My favorite is on goat cheese with crackers or toasts. Mmmm…
Looks like an absolutely delicious way to use eggplant! Pinned and saved, thank you!
I make a similar eggplant caponata dish – and yeah, I could slather it on my wrist! On a side note, it’s just UNBEARABLY HOT here in NJ – and WHY WHY WHY did they close all the outdoor pools yesterday??? I walked right by the gorgeous pool at our gym earlier and nearly wept! I do think the heat has truly GOTTEN to me! AAAAH to wear booties, a light sweater and a pretty scarf…uuhhh maybe come December?
I love that you peel your tomatoes! I do that. Everyone thinks I’m nuts, but sometimes those peels get tough and stuck to various parts of my mouth, mainly the back of my throat, which I find intolerable. It is also good to know that clouds of decriminalized smoke is the new normal everywhere, not just in SF. There really ought to be a law. Oh well. Deb, there is a Home Depot pop up at the bottom of your page, every page. Is that you or my problem? It is so annoying. Thanks! That baby is just the cutest thing since, well, since your son! You two make the best looking kids!
Oooh, I love caponata… we had such a wonderful one in Tuscany, I wish I could re-create that. I’ll try your recipe soon.
I don’t even need bread to go with it, just spoon the lukewarm caponata out of a small bowl, mmm… my mouth is watering.
Also, I like the way little sister is giving her big brother a sort of “gimme five” on the chin :)
How funny you should post this recipe!
I just got back from a trip to Turkey where I gorged endlessly on the (thankfully ubiquitous) eggplant salad that’s a popular cold mezze there. I missed it so much upon my return that last night I had to try my hand at my own– just eggplant, onion, garlic, peppers(both sweet and hot), fresh tomato, all stewed together in one pot, no batch frying, SIMPLE. It was SO good deb. SO. GOOD. I want you to try it. Like I want you to try MINE. I’m so proud of it. It’s a damn revelation is what it is, SO much more than the sum of its parts. It’s right over here in Bk Heights, just stroll the kid across the bridge and I’ll give you a bite!
Like you, I can never be bothered to salt my eggplant. HOWEVER, since I wasn’t frying/sautéing (all I’ve ever done to eggplant before, ) I did salt my eggplant cubes, rinsed them but didn’t bother with drying, and all in all I think it cut down on cooking time so my eggplant reached the sweet and soft stage before they’d cooked onto the bottom of the pot– which never happens. I always have some eggplant adhered to the bottom of the pot. You too, right? Right, cool.
just made your recipe since I happened to have all the ingredients! Can’t wait until dinner tomorrow evening! If it’s anything close to the one at Otto in NYC, I will be one happy girl!! (And as my 12 year old daughter, who has her own autographed copy of your cookbook, just said “if it’s smitten kitchen, you know it’s going to be delicious!”) Thanks for the inspiration.
We have talked about this before, but pine nuts (the good ones that do not come from China) are insanely expensive around here. Would you suggest another nut, maybe pistachios, or just skip it?…the crunch sounds necessary to me. So hot in CA today, may have to put off even frying for a while.
Thank you, thank you! You promised me this when I commented on the photo of it in the Frozen Hot Chocolate post. YOU. ARE. THE. BEST. (and your kids are pretty darn awesome, too!).
I love this dish and of course the similar french version Ratatouille. I especially like to make both dishes in the oven as this draws out the moisture and intensifies the divine throw it on everything flavours. I have the ratatouille (eggplant, zucchini, onions, capsicum, tomatoes, garlic rosemary) hot through spaghetti, as a vegetable side dish, on toast the next morning and if there is ever a little left add some vinegar to turn it into almost a caponata like dish mmmm scrumptious!!!!!
Sarah – we always eat smitten kitchen ratatouille with cous cous, I bet this would work equally well on top of or beside cous cous as a GF option.
I too am skeptical of the raisins. Also I have a bunch of very thinly sliced eggplant leftover (from the aforementioned ratatouille recipe…) and am wondering if this has to be done with cubes or if caponata might be an option to use up those slices…
Eating it right now. The raisins merge into the dish (I used only 1T sugar). It’s ratatouille’s edgy cousin, not spicy: the sweet & the vinegar/capers/green olives…..yeah, edgy. Lovely. 2nding serving w/ mozzerella!
(I put it on polenta, long story as to why I needed warmer. Starting with Northern Ca summers & fog & having our roof replaced. Nothing like open-air cooking in one’s regular kitchen!)
looks awesome great post!
I LOVE EGGPLANT. So I need to try this.
Us folks in Utah have been consuming this dish for eons and we call it garden casserole. We eat it as left overs with perfectly toasted butter filled craters on an english muffin for breakfast! My grandma Winnie would salt the heck out of the eggplant! My sister HATED eggplant so we used zucchini to make her happy! Thank you for helping me remember my childhood. I made this tonight and I have to say it was a time travel moment! I SO forgot about this recipe!
Dont forget to make at least a ton extra
it cans wonderfully for your larder
and HAND PIES…plus parm will never be the same
It’s funny how every culture that cultivates similar things has their own version of a recipe for those things – the whole time I was reading this post, I couldn’t help but think that it’s the Italian version of rustic French countryside ratatouille!
I’ve never had caponata and now I’m totally wondering why, as this looks PHENOMENAL! Yum-O!! You’re right, the core list of ingredients are seems very flavorful so I think I will stick to your recipe, especially for my first time. Your recipes never disappoint so I’m sure I will love this. And I can only imagine how tough it is to stroll around NYC in this heat. I remember living in NYC and experiencing summer on the East Coast for the first time…I just couldn’t believe the humidity and all the (lovely) smells you encounter on the street. But, what baby wants baby gets!! :D
Caponata is great on polenta if you want a gluten-free option. I imagine you could also top some roasted or baked potatoes and lastly, I’m not an egg eater but my mom used to top omelets with it.
Mmm–caponata! I made this a lot eons ago when we were first married, but it has been ages. I am quite sure we never added raisins, however, golden or otherwise. I don’t remember using pine nuts either, and I think our recipe called for red wine vinegar–but, as you said, it’s a very flexible recipe.
yumm looks super delish!! can’t wait to try it at home :D
I just made my first pesto and it came out great, so I’m feeling ambitious enough to tackle caponata, which I’m TRYING not to be suspicious of because it’s not what I’m used to. I’ve never even tasted it, so I’ll stick with your recipe as written.
Meanwhile, I have put that peeler in my order basket at my favorite no-shipping-costs online shopping mart. I have bought more kitchen gadgets since I started reading your blog than I have since I moved into my first apartment! M.F.K. Fisher’s father despises anyone who doesn’t peel tomatoes, but I’ve always been too impatient for the hot water method and the knife takes off too much tomato flesh. Seeing a peeler on a tomato was a revelation!
I haven’t used all the gadgets yet (the offset spatula was another revelation!) but I’m sure they will get into circulation when I finish retiring next week, huzzah!
Sarah, caponata can be eaten in a bowl with nothing else, with gluten-free bread, with gluten-free pasta, over quinoa (couscous is not GF but you probably know that), with rice…Just let your GF family members taste it and decide what to have it with!
I have been making a nontraditional version, roasted, with my CSA goodies over the past few summers. Hasn’t happened yet this summer, but this will help kick-start me into it. Hubby hates cooked raisins, so I skip them.
LOVE the picture!
The look on your sons face says it all..so pleased he is to have her
I love eggplants and raisins, but don’t tend to put the two together. Trying out this classic combination might be a revelation.
I’m so pleased to see that your recipe is so close to my mom’s! Not usually the case with all the varieties of Italian dishes. She didn’t salt either. FYI, it cans beautifully!
This looks divine! And eggplant is on sale at my market right now, so I think I’ll be trying this sooner than later. Yum!!!
I also use a caponata recipe from Saveur, which is very similar but with the addition of 2 T of finely grated unsweetened chocolate. Love the pine nuts and the raisins, and for sugar I use brown sugar. The richness is intoxicating and luscious. Favorite way to eat is on Italian bread layered with fresh mozzarella and a couple of basil leaves.
This is a great recipe. Caponata is incredibly delicious with cold tuna packed in olive oil (or any high quality tuna). There’s something special about that tangy relishy yumminess that ramps up the tuna deliciousness. My mouth is watering thinking about it. (and I do NOT want to cook today – the weather is disgusting.)
I salt and drain eggplant when I’m making it parmegan – not because it fries better but because afterwards, when it sits waiting for the layering, it remains firmer and the breading crunchier and doesn’t get slimey. (or less so) Also extra water means when it’s baked, the eggplant steams and the whole thing becomes sloppy.
PS. No raisins in my caponata. or if I dared to try it, I’d process a couple, for the flavor but not the texture.
To JP: An older recipe for a version of this called for toasted walnuts rather than pine nuts, and I’ve substituted in toasted pecans (because I live in Texas where they’re easy to find) with no substantial change in the flavor profile. It’s my impression the toasting part is key so the nuts contribute a delicious sweet “crunch” to the mixture.
No fancy bread on hand? Shredded wheat style crackers are a marvelous delivery system for caponata.
I’ve made this recipe where the technique is to soak the eggplant in cold water for 20 minutes. I didn’t try it the salting way for comparison, but the texture of the eggplant in this dish was spot on. Btw, the recipe is really yummy. http://www.blossomtostem.net/2014/09/10/sichuan-fish-fragrant-eggplant-with-bacon
I forgot how much I love caponta! Rather than fry the eggplant I sliced and grilled over medium flame. Then I “cubed” it, and added to the sauteed onions, etc. Less mess, less oil and the addition of a great smoky flavor. I didn’t have raisins, so I used the 2T sugar, and only had 1/2 c. green olives, so I used some black ones, too. I didn’t have pine nuts–so I just left them out. Not traditional — but delicious anyway. Thanks Deb!
Love caponata, but the lazy side of me that tends to team up with my inability to plan ahead means that I usually reach for the pressure cooker and Lorna Sass’ recipe. Still tasty, and very nearly instant caponata gratification…
I love caponata! I serve it up as open faced sandwiches on big horizontal slices of baguette. I also put a big slice of buffalo mozzarella on top and stick em under the broiler for a minute! My version is not very sweet, with lots of kalamata olives and the addition of green and red peppers.
I do love caponata though I rarely seem to make it. There is a version I have made that adds a little chocolate which gives a lovely glossy richness, but not so much you can taste it. This version looks great as well, though!
Another great way to salt eggplant and also ensure it doesnt suck up too much oil later is to toss it in kosher salt and then put it on a plate lined in coffee filters and microwave it for 5 minutes on high. It sort of shrivels the eggplant, makes it less better and keeps it from getting greasy. No idea where I picked up that tidbit but it works wonders!
I have most of the ingredients in my garden. I cannot wait to make this. I have so many eggplants and tomotes, don’t know what to do with them. Wish i could ship you some.. lol thanks for the inspiration;)
I highly recommend checking out Francis Lam’s Weapons Grade Ratatouille while it’s still summer-ish. Makes a vat-full, and freezes beautifully. An excellent respite from the squashes and brassicas come January.
Would kalamata olives and regular purple raisins ruin this? Just hoping to making this with what I have on hand and I just bought three beautiful eggplants at the Amish farmers market yesterday…
I can’t believe you’ve read my mind re my food needs for tomorrow- have to feed some family and their builders (don’t ask!)
you know that I bought eggplant yesterday and am looking for a way to use it.
Here we go!
Your little girl is adorbs.
I’m going to make this caponata along with some Irish Soda Bread for lunch. Perfect!
JP: I just made this with toasted slivered almonds instead of pine nuts because they were a quarter of the price and it turned out GREAT!
Served it for dinner with goat cheese polenta. Such a treat.
I just wanted to say thanks for adding the ‘for the other side of the world’ links. I see so many beautiful recipes and love reading your posts, but I also try to stick with what is in season, so that is perfect for me! Thanks!
Deb, this photo should be on the cover of all my favorite food magazines. Gorgeous as always. This recipe is perfect for a bumper crop of eggplant. THANK YOU, in the midst of strolling and soothing not one but two babes, for another lovely recipe!
adore caponata, what an amazing dish. the version i make is probably a variation but a simple one, eggplant, sicilian green olives, lemon rind and juice, capers and parsley, pine nuts optional. after i first made it i was amazed to notice it had no onions or garlic which was a revelation because it had sooo much flavour. yours however looks a bit more amenable to actually being eaten as a meal, which can only be a good thing. can’t wait to try it.
My goodness, I had a baby of the same variety last summer and remember those meandering walks (It’s lovely out here, but when can we *all* take a nap?)! I think I knew every crack in every sidewalk within a one mile radius of my home. Anyway, Jamie Oliver has a fantastic recipe for Caponata and it’s a staple in my household. We love it in a million ways, but one favorite is tossed with thick spaghetti and a can of oil-packed tuna. Tastes great warm or just out of the fridge, with fresh parsley chopped on top.
I commented in novel form already but I have something to add (eggplant’s in season and I’m getting more experience with it by the day!): salting the eggplant significantly cuts down on the amount of oil (and cook time) it needs. Salting doesn’t make it better per se, it just makes it less oily.
This is exactly the right thing for the little lonely eggplant I brought home from the grocery store the other day. It’s just too bad Berlin has officially decided summer is gone. I feel like this would make such a great picnic take-along!
Perfect timing, Deb. have all of the ingredients, thanks to my CSA and a pretty well-stocked pantry and was planning to make camponata tomorrow. So pleased to have a new recipe to try. Really everything that I have tried from Smitten Kitchen is on our rotating rosterof meals and treats. Happy Wanderings, Keyan
Lovely Italian recipe. You have to have the right bread though…!
For a more authentic Sicilian taste, you might try to substitute currants for the raisins. The raisins we get here are much, much sweeter than those in Sicily, and currents are much closer to that flavor profile.
That looks perfect for these last sweet summer days!
I never deep fry mine. I would think that would take a ton of oil. I either shallow fry or lately roast in the oven. It sounds weird, but my Sicilian Grandma always put a little cocoa powder in hers. I always make a huge batch and freeze the some.
Just did this and it was a-ma-zing! Even still hot from the pan, my “I only like Kraft Diner” friend love it :3
Well look at that. This dish has a name and all. Caponata. I have been preparing this at home forever and I had no idea it was a genuine Italian dish!
yours looks delicious.
Fantastic pictures and a great recipe! I’ll try it out tomorrow. Have a good weekend and happy cooking! :)
How lovely! So my husband and I were in upstate NY at a small Monastery and the Moldavian Monk made fried egg plant, his grandmother’s recipe and he never salts it either – very tender and not at all bitter! Looks like a great recipe and so great that we don’t have to salt egg plant when frying!
I made this immediately upon reading your recipe, and I love it. My husband is not a fan of eggplant, so it did not appeal to him. No problem, because now there is more for me! It is easy to make, and very tasty. I plan to make it again for guests.
I missed the Greek festival here this summer and its attendant homemade moussaka, and have been thinking about eggplant all summer. Am not sure about caponata, however — the raisins are putting me off somewhat, although I like a previous person’s idea about grinding a couple up for a little added sweetness.
But what I really came to say is that I have a very easy way of peeling tomatoes — put them in the sink and pour a kettle of boiling water over them. Turn them over so you’re pouring it over the tops and bottoms. Let them sit for a minute or two and the skin peels right off. It’s faster and easier than blanching, and now I can barely stand to eat tomato skins, even when fresh from my garden.
They merge….so you don’t get RAISINS in your dish. It all sorta melts together, esp w/ the contrasting vinegar/green olive/capers. They dance together.
Amazing! Just in time for the Bronco game on Sunday!
I just finished making this, with a few variations. For the olives, I used TJ’s almond stuffed olives (I didn’t think some almonds would hurt anything), currants instead of golden raisins, sauteed garlic (with the onions and celery) and chopped fresh parsley .. otherwise, I followed the recipe. Oh yes, I roasted the cubed eggplant instead of frying it. I mixed it up with olive oil and a bit of salt, on a half sheet pan at 390 for 45 minutes, stirring now and then. Maybe could have baked 10-15 minutes longer but I’m very happy with this dish.
We made this tonight and it turned out amazing. I skipped the sugar all together (though untraditional) to make it less sweet.
I noticed, as I was making it, that it reminded me of a muffaletta sandwich, which I then searched on your site and noticed you don’t have a recipe for. Have you thought about doing a muffaletta? I would love to see that recipe :)
i made it yesterday, with Jamie Oliver’s Focaccia. It was super!
I made this yesterday for a dinner party and everyone loved it! Thank you Deb!
This recipe was fantastic. I did reduce the quantity of vinegar because I was worried it would be too sour. Thank you for all the wonderful, always reliably delicious vegetarian recipes you publish here.
i have never HAD caponata! there are not enough italians in oregon. ready to try this.
Just wanted to mention that I had some today on sour dough bread with feta cheese and think that’s an ideal flavor combination.
It says “Reduce heat to medium” twice. Can you clarify?
Great recipe, only mods I suggest are (1) to eat this on a slice of olive bread and (2) to make a double batch bc it is a lot of work for a small but delicious heap of veg.
I skipped the raisins bc I hate them, went with the lower amount of sugar because why wouldn’t you, and skipped the green olives because I am cash-poor at the moment. Still delicious.
Are you still working on your 2nd cookbook.
Jackie — Yes! But, the publication date has been pushed back because I had to go have a baby (the nerve) right in the middle of everything. A proper update will come soon.
Could you share the size of the Staub pan you are using? I’m looking to add to my collection!
Thank you!! This is one of the best things I ever ate.
Is it weird to want to make this with zucchini? I have a HUGE one and it just calls for this treatment.
Bea — Not at all and in fact I saw several recipes that included it.
According to a recent newsletter from my CSA, Mariquita Farms, “In the old days, before eggplants had been the subject of so much attention by plant scientists they could sometimes be quite bitter. You still see some cookbooks recommend that a cook slice and pre-salt slices of eggplant before using, giving the salt some time to draw out the bitter alkaloids before rinsing the slices clean. Nowadays, eggplant has been improved by zealous plant scientists to such an extent that only very mature, hard, over-ripe eggplant carries any threat of bitterness.”
This may explain why few of us in the comments have found a difference after salting to remove bitterness (but salting is still good for drying out the eggplant, if needed).
OMG. Saw this post today and went out immediately to get all of the ingredients. Just finished making it. Still a little warm, but had a quick taste–it’s DIVINE. Also purchased some nice italian bread to grill and some burratta to go under the caponata. Add a chilled glass of white wine and I think I will be in heaven. Thanks.
I made this dish last night! I cubed the eggplant tossed it with 1/2 cup olive oil and some garlic. Then I baked it at 400 degrees while I assembled the rest of the dish. It was delicious
Love this dish! There are so many amazing eggplant and tomato recipe variations around and about the Mediterranean region. I want to try them all!
sara — I’m using this Staub pan, I believe.
I just finished making this. It is so delicious! I can’t wait to see what it will taste like in a few hours after it sits. Thanks again for another awesome recipe!!
Meh. I don’t salt either. I never think of making caponata then I see it and think “Caponata!”
My how you son has grown to be a… boy. I bet he will be tall. I saw the pic of your daughter’s red hair and thought of my own sister who had a mass of giant deeply red curls when she was young. She was sweet and yet devilish. Just as a proper red head should be. Bet your daughter will to.
So much skepticism about the raisins! I used them and they made the dish this delightful sweet/sour jam. It would not be the same without them. I subbed walnuts for pine nuts and used the sad black olives I had on hand- it came out just fine. Next time I’ll stir in some harissa with the tomato paste for a bit more spice.
I made this the other night and it was very good. I coated the eggplant with olive oil and baked it instead of frying. For my tastes, I would cut back to ⅓ cup for the vinegar next time and I would get a better quality green olive than I used, maybe greek olives? I put olive oil and garlic on the bread then toasted to serve it on. Very good.
This was crazy good and just what I needed to use up the contents of my CSA box and a loaf of no-knead bread I had left over. It was exponentially better with each day it sat in the fridge – the vinegar mellowed out considerably and everything blended deliciously. I replaced the celery with sweet bell pepper and used fresh tomatoes because they were also in my veggie box otherwise I wouldn’t change a thing!
YUM! I altered the recipe a lot, using just fresh tomatoes, skipping the sugar and most of the vinegar and so on, but still… a great base to build from. Thank you!
How much caponata does this recipe yield?
christina — Good question, yikes, I didn’t measure but I’d say 3 to 4 cups, easily.
I no longer buy the ubiquitous black globe eggplant found in the grocery stores because it really is too bitter. IMO, the absolute best eggplant in the world is called Rosa Bianca, which unfortunately you will only find in a farmer’s market (if you are lucky) or have to grow yourself. It is a lovely lavender and white ball of mild, nutty goodness. Otherwise, I stick with the Asian varieties, which I find usually lack that horrible bitterness. Either way, no more salting!
Hi Deb! I follow your blog religiously! I’m a nineteen year-old pre-dental student who loves to cook and bake! I’m writing to you to express my pleasure in knowing that we use the same olive oil — Partanna Asaro — for this is my family’s olive oil! My mother’s grandfather, Nicola Asaro, and his brother, Tommaso, started the family business in Sicily; a century later, it has expanded to global markets. It’s nice to see our product being used by someone whose style I can respect and who can truly appreciate its value! Keep posting Italian-inspired recipes — like this one and the new Cannoli Pound Cake — and use Partanna!
Dominique — Wonderful to hear from you! A friend tipped me off to this wonderful olive oil. I buy it at Pino’s, an Italian butcher right below Houston. Pretty good price, too.
The day you posted this, I had just picked up my CSA and found two eggplants, which have never been a particular favorite of mine. I had 90% of the other ingredients already at home and decided to give it a try — turns out, I adore eggplant when it’s in caponata form.
I just got another eggplant this week from my CSA, and can’t wait to make this again tonight. Thanks for (routinely) expanding my cooking horizons! :)
I made this but used the entire 14.5 oz can of crushed tomatoes and omitted the capers (mostly because I didn’t have them) and the raisins. Then I made it into pizza with some feta cheese. SUBLIME. Thanks, Deb!
We had this today as a Starter, with your rosemary flatbread. Divine! ! I used less aubergine and added a Zucchini. This is a wonderful recipe, I’m already looking forward to the next Time. ..
Btw, the main course was your Marsala chicken with mushrooms. Delicious… and dessert was your Vanilla custard, w strawberries. Our guests were really happy with every course :)
Sorry for the spelling, German smartphone…
Question: when I went to fry the eggplant, most of the olive oil was immediately absorbed and retained. What to do about this? Otherwise, absolutely delicious!! Thank you so much!!
I made this truly amazing caponata, but I substituted dried blueberries for the raisins, so a little less sweet and maybe a titch tangier
So I tried to make this dish (from a recipe we received after a cooking class in Italy) the other night, and my eggplant was bitter. As in, take-one-bite-and-throw-the-whole-pan-out bitter. I salted and drained my eggplant. Do you have any suggestions? I’ve been craving a good caponata for so long now!
I ran into the same issue with the eggplant completely absorbing the olive oil when frying and retaining the oil. Does this mean that I should have had the oil hotter before putting the eggplant in? I love the flavor of this dish but it was too oily for my liking. Please let me know if you have any tips for less oily fried eggplant!
I used quite a lot of oil (1/2 inch deep in 12″ cast iron skillet) and let it get really hot, almost smoking. I lost very little oil after frying the eggplant, and there is no oily issue. Hope this helps!
I should also mention that this freezes very well in freezer bags. Wait until serving it to add the basil and pine nuts, though.
Made this for the first time last night. Fresh tomatoes (unpeeled, because I’m too lazy) and only a handful of very tiny eggplants, so heavier on tomato than pictured. I used currants and the jarred pimento-stuffed green olives. It’s heavenly. Just ate it for lunch on toasted bread with goat cheese. I will definitely be making more!
Thanks for this recipe. It’s delicious has been my go-to med. cooked veg recipe since you published it. Great as a bed for fish or chicken, spread onto grilled stale bread, or just by the spoonful from the fridge. I’m never excited about the grease factor with eggplant and have had great success peeling, cubing and then tossing with ample salt and olive oil then roasting in a hot oven ~400 degrees, for 20 minutes or so. (In SF the oven roasting heat is easier and welcome – esp in summer!) The eggplant throws off its water, roasts and caramelizes a bit, then I basically proceed as written dumping it into my pan at the end with the basil. I also add red peppers to the onion/celery saute when I have them around and it adds some extra sweetness and bulk. We have a great wine vinegar on the West Coast – Katz’s Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc – its agrodolce – beautiful, a little more sweet and no harshness, so you can eliminate the extra sugar.
Thanks for the roasting tip. I remember years ago seeing a recipe in Cook’s Illustrated where they recommended cooking the eggplant in the microwave and then sautéing it to finish. It really did help with the oil problem, but your method sounds even better. Thanks from another Northern Californian (Sonoma County).
Can this be frozen?
I’ve never tried freezing but I think it would hold up. There might be slight textural breakdown in the veg, but it you think the mushiness is worth the time and convenience tradeoff for having some freezer-ready I’d go for it.
It freezes really well.
Holy tomato Deb this dish is phenomenal! It was good three hours after I made it for a birthday dinner but the leftovers I brought to a birthday BBQ the next day were outstanding. People jostled to get some and my husband was miffed because he never got any. Three people I didn’t know came up to me to compliment me! The flavors somehow meld together and then burst onto your tongue after 24 hours—yet another great recipe from you. Thanks so much—
The reason to salt the eggplant is not for taste. Eggplant is one of the foods that is high in oxalates, and the salting is helpful in removing this chemical, which causes kidney stones in some people. Oxalates also cause irritation on mucous membranes and that’s why it tastes sort of astringent (like kiwi).
While this might be why some people do it, most cooks I know do it for improved flavor and texture, and reduced bitterness.
Made this yesterday, and it was another hit. The produce is so good right now, so I was able to get everything from the farmers market- and it did not disappoint. It took a bit longer than I anticipated (because I don’t read estimated times on recipes), but it was so easy and very delicious!
Love this type of thing, I roast instead of deep fry, same great flavor and improves texture of the eggplant…. and i agree, no salting necessary.
I just made this today, to bring for Christmas with our ever-changing cheese tray. I did calamata olives, leeks, bell peppers, celery, berry tomatoes and capers and I dressed with olive oil mixed with basil pesto, a drop of tomato concentrate, peel and juice from one clementine and one half lime and a bunch of fresh parsley. I fried the eggplant in hot olive oil in a cast iron, in a 450 degree oven after tossing with salt and pepper and a little lemon.
I make this pretty regularly (but just 1/2 for a single person kitchen) and it is always an awesome meal prep idea. I just tried it as “pasta sauce” over zucchini noodles and some Italian chicken sausage it was delicious. And super quick for an easy dinner. Might add this to my Whole30 recipes just a few tweaks to make it compliant!
Yum, yum, yum!!! Made a few substitutions but this was just the ticket to use the beautiful eggplant I picked up and then forgot about.
I had some canola oil left over from a recent deep fry, so I used that instead of olive oil. Instead of tomato paste, I used a Hungarian pepper paste. Instead of raisins, which I hate, I used currants. And instead of fresh basil I used dried because it’s what I had on hand. And red wine vinegar instead of white because, again, it’s what I had. Oh, and I didn’t have any celery so I used celery salt instead of regular salt. :)
Can’t wait to serve this up on some yummy toast or perhaps mixed in with some pasta. Had a bite or two right after making it and it was already scrumptious. Going to be even yummier after the flavors meld.
Oh, and I also used kalamata instead of green olives, because it’s what I had! Ha!
Should this have garlic in it–you mentioned that it is garlicky. Thank you for great recipes
As per the body of the post, caponata can have a number of additions, one of them being garlic. If you like garlic, add it! It will be even more delicious (if that is possible)!
I am recently and definitely in the salt the eggplant camp. I really think it improves the texture – I more reliably get that silky texture that I love so much in a well cooked eggplant. That said if I don’t have the time I plough ahead anyway! I clicked through and made the Saveur version. Delicioso!
I love caponata! Hot tip: try it on top of hummus, on toasted pita triangles. I got this concept decades ago from a local deli that offered hummus and caponata pita sandwiches, and have used the combo ever since. Wow. Try it.
This is the BEST eggplant dish I have ever made. To cut calories I steam the eggplant till tender and then lightly fry just to add a small amount of olive oil to the flavor.
Try mixing caponata with a can of tuna and make a hero sandwich!