Caponata, Just Like Mom Makes

imageCaponata (Sicilian: capunata) is a Sicilian eggplant (aubergine) dish consisting of a cooked vegetable salad made from chopped fried eggplant and celery seasoned with sweetened vinegar, with capers in a sweet and sour sauce. This vibrant mixture of fresh vegetables historically was served as a main course. Over time, it has evolved into a side dish, often served with fish. At Gio, we serve it as antipasti to be spread on home-baked flat bread, which Tony bakes in the Woodstone open-flame oven Caponata perfectly embodies the Sicilian affinity for agrodolce – sweet and sour. Made with vinegar and sugar, the levels of sweet and sour in caponata vary from household to household. In our version, we follow the same recipe as Tony’s mother, which means our recipe leans to the sweet side. As is traditional in Sicily, we start with the finest fresh eggplant, which we combine with other ingredients like onions, olives and capers. We cook this slowly until we achieve the perfect texture. We add Mama’s secret blend of spices and vinegar and continue cooking until vegetables caramelize, adding just the right amount of sweetness to the sourness of the eggplant and vinegar. Caponata became popular in our family, as well as most of Sicily, because in the summer we had all the fresh ingredients available, so our family jarred it and preserved it in oil, then we could enjoy it all winter long. This classic recipe probably dates to the ninth century, when many believe the aubergine was introduced in Sicily by the Saracens. Culinary historians have suggested that eggplants may have been grown in Sicily earlier, perhaps as early as Roman times. Enjoy this traditional Sicilian treat the next time you visit Gio. Ask Ryan, everyone’s favorite bartender, to suggest the perfect drink for pairing.
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