Mangia! My favorite Italian word. (Right up there with Vino! and Salute!, in that order.) If Italian food is placed before me you don’t have to tell me to mangia twice. One of the great hallmarks of this cuisine is its reputation for simplicity. Italian cooks focus on the quality of the ingredients rather than the quantity to produce an abundance of flavor. Eggplant Caponata fully embodies this philosophy, producing such a full and distinct taste.
Caponata from the Old Country
This recipe was handed down to me by my father-in-law, who was a first generation Italian-American. His mother brought it over from Sicily when they immigrated to the U.S. in the early 20th century. It’s so good–you can taste the heritage!
Caponata is a dish that takes many forms, and you will see great variations depending on the genesis of the recipe. While there are many overlapping ingredients (eggplant, onions, garlic), some will add or remove various other items (olives, capers, sugar).
Reason being that Caponata, by origin, is a dish that is the result of what’s left at the end of the day. If there were peppers to be used, they went in. Tomatoes available? They went in. Italians by nature, my husband tells me, are efficient cooks, and masters of the art of utilizing ingredients and drawing them into their fullest expression.
I hope you will find that this rendition serves that example well. I fell in love with this recipe the first time I ate it while dating my husband twenty-five years ago. This dish is a salute (Salute!) to my father-in-law’s classic original.
Selecting the Perfect Eggplant
When selecting eggplant it is important to pick one that feels heavy in your hand. The skin should be smooth and unblemished and the stem should still be green and fresh-looking. If possible, I use all organic produce. The flavor difference will be ten fold the difference in the price. It’s worth it!
And did you know there is a difference between male and female eggplants? And a major flavor difference depending on which you choose!
Why Eggplants Are Good For You
Since the eggplant is a member of the nightshade family it is technically a fruit, considered a berry by some. A serving of this fruit and vegetable mixture delivers so many wonderful nutrients: Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, folate, iron, calcium, and manganese. It is high in fiber, low in carbohydrates, and sugar-free (no sugar added). Caponata also provides plant-based protein and monounsaturated fats. We love our olives and olive oil for the long list of benefits that monounsaturated fats are adding to their nutritional resume.
How to Serve Eggplant Caponata
Traditionally, Caponata is served on baguette slices, crackers, or fresh bread. I use gluten-free options. It can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or cold. Store the Caponata in the refrigerator. After 24 hours all the flavors will have blended nicely, but it’s delicious when served before 24 hours as well. This dish will keep at least one week.
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And if you are looking for some more delicious health-filled eggplant recipes, check out my Baked Vegan Eggplant Arrabiata, “Cheesy” Eggplant Stuffed Peppers, or my Eggplant Caulliflower Dirty “Rice”! Enjoy!