That picture is from the restaurant Buatta in Palermo. We ate there last year and truly enjoyed their version of caponata, the sweet-and-sour eggplant dish that is the trademark of Sicily. Every restaurant and every home has their own caponata recipe. We were not able to get Buatta’s. Most recipes on that fable island are secret.
Here’s an American version of the Sicilian classic by a classic American chef, Alice Waters. All the necessary sweet and sour ingredients are here: capers, anchovies, vinegar, sugar. Feel free to experiment. You can always add more or less of these or augment with other ingredients. In an earlier post, for Caponata Classica last year, I found a recipe that pine nuts, basil and raisins.
I love the sweet and sour flavor of this dish. I, being a heretic, would even consider adding some pineapple. But, I want to visit Italy again and I fear being put on a “banned for life” list.
Caponata from Alice Waters in The Art of Simple Food
Yield: 4 cups, enough about 6 people
Trim and cut into l-inch cubes:
2 medium eggplants
Season with salt and put into a colander to drain for 15 minutes or so.
In a heavy pot over medium heat, warm:
1 tablespoon olive oil
Add enough eggplant cubes to cover the bottom of the pan and sauté until golden. Remove and continue sautéing batches of the eggplant, adding more oil as needed. After removing the last batch of eggplant, add a bit more oil and sauté until golden:
2/3 cup thinly sliced celery
Remove from the pan and set aside. Add to the pan:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add:
1 ½ cups tomato sauce [your choice, canned or homemade; chunky is fine as the picture displays]
Cook for another 7 minutes. Stir in the cooked eggplant and celery, then add:
½ cup green olives, pitted
2 to 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
2 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed, filleted, and chopped
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
Cook for a final 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt, vinegar, or sugar as desired. Caponata tastes even better the next day.
Source: The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters [Clarkson Potter, 2007]
Photo Information: Canon Powershot G9X, f/3.2, 1/30th second, ISO-125