My grandmother's recipe for the classic Italian eggplant appetizer is a delicious addition to any antipasto platter. This caponata is both sweet and tangy with a rich tomato base and a hint of salty brine from capers and olives.Recipe makes 2 quarts caponata and is easily halved.
1cupbasic tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes in puree(such as Hunt's or Pomi; not pasta sauce)
1-1/2teaspoonskosher salt plus additional to taste
1/4teaspoonfreshly-ground black pepper, plus additional to taste
1cuppitted large green olives, halved*
1/4 to 1/3cupgolden raisins(depending on how sweet you like your caponata)
1/3cuptoasted pignoli nuts(2 oz package)
2tablespoonsred wine vinegar
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Cook the eggplant cubes until they're tender, but don't lose their shape, about 8-10 minutes, gently stirring frequently.** Transfer cooked eggplant to a bowl and set aside.
Heat remaining 1/4 cup oil. Sauté onions and celery until softened, about 10 minutes.
Stir in garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes/puree, water, sugar, salt, and pepper to the skillet and stir to combine. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and gently stir in eggplant, olives, capers, raisins, toasted pignoli nuts, and vinegar.
Cool, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate at least overnight to develop the flavors. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour before serving. Caponata keeps well for about a week, covered tightly, in the refrigerator.
Serve at room temperature with slices of crusty bread or assorted crostini toasts.
*I like to use a mix of the large green and Kalamata olives from the antipasto bar at my local market.**The eggplant might soak up the oil and the pan might start to look dry; this is normal for this recipe. Resist the temptation to add additional oil so the assembled caponata doesn't taste greasy. Using a nonstick skillet will ensure that the eggplant cubes don't stick.