Caponata is a well known and much loved Italian antipasto that originated in Sicily. A savory mix of vegetables and fried eggplant is perked up with sweetened vinegar and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Tonight we ate it “en croute”, wrapped in puff pastry, as the main dish. It was served with a fresh salad and a little bit of fish.
It’s incredibly versatile, and can be used as a side with Mahi-Mahi or roasted meats, as a main course, or as an appetizer that is served either on it’s own or with toast points. Some versions even include pine nuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds, and a bit of cocoa powder. Like an Italian version of mole. Feel free to add those if you are so inclined!
Caponata en Croute
Caponata the night before…
2 small eggplants, sliced in 1/2 inch strips (see instructions)
2 small red onions, cut in half, and then cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 celery stick, cut in 1/4 inch slices, and boiled for 4 minutes
1 large sweet red pepper, cut in 1/2 inch strips
1 T capers (if packed in salt, rinse and soak for at least an hour, changing water at least once to purge the salt. If packed in vinegar, just rinse)
12 green olives, thinly sliced
6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
1.5 T raw sugar mixed with 2 T red wine vinegar
about 2 C olive oil (give or take) for frying eggplant
black pepper and salt
Sprinkle eggplant strips with salt and let sit in a colander for at least an hour. Rinse thoroughly, and press between dishtowels to dry.
Saute pepper and onion slices in olive oil with a pinch of salt. Use a pan or pot with a cover – this will help the vegetables to retain moisture, and get a great texture. I start with the peppers, and then add the onions once the peppers are about 1/2 way done. Once the onions are nice and soft and translucent, add the tomato puree and cook for about 15 minutes with the cover on, stirring occasionally. Take pan off heat and set aside.
Add olive oil to fry pan and heat to med/med low. Whatever fry temperature is for your particular stovetop. Fry the eggplant in batches, removing from the oil when they are golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Add the eggplant, capers, olives, and basil to the pepper and onion mixture. Return the pan to the stove top and heat to medium. Once it’s nice and hot, stir in the sugar vinegar mixture, cook for an additional 10 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool down. Transfer to a container and let sit overnight and up to 3 days.
En Croute the night of…
1 rectangular sheet store bought puff pastry dough (use one made with oil if you prefer a vegan version)
1 beaten egg for brushing top of pastry (use oil if you don’t want to use egg)
dried oregano and Maldon or other flaky salt for sprinkling on top of pastry
Let caponata come to room temperature. Spread in center of pastry dough, and fold over edges. Brush top with beaten egg or oil, and sprinkle with herbs and salt. Cook according to package instructions. The caponata is already cooked and does not need to be hot, so really you’re just cooking the pastry.
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