You must try this killer eggplant Caponata Recipe even if you think you hate eggplant! A few unconventional twists on the traditional caponata siciliana make this a vegetarian appetizer you can serve with complete confidence at your next gathering.
Y’all I have spent 48 years feeling like a bad Sicilian-American because I couldn’t stand caponata. Hated the stuff. When I saw Anthony Bourdain tear into it on his show I tried again. I desperately wanted to like it. But nah. I couldn’t get around my texture issue with eggplant. So it is safe to say that if our waitress at Larry’s in Montreal hadn’t made a mistake and delivered some caponata to our table that we didn’t order this somewhat unconventional but unyieldingly delicious Eggplant Caponata Recipe would not exist.
I’m feeling a little guilty now that she took it off our bill. I mean, it was her mistake. But what an awesome mistake.
At this point I became interested in caponata but I wasn’t thinking about actually making it myself until I saw Grown and Gathered‘s recipe for it in the Summer issue of Sweet Paul Magazine. I like to think I’m above these things but it was the beautiful photography that made me NNEEEEDDD to try that recipe. And I did. I brought it to a party and it was a hit.
So then I couldn’t get the idea of that recipe with walnuts in it out of my head.
Even the haterz gonna love up on this Eggplant Caponata Recipe
Now THAT would be an eggplant caponata recipe that would make my conversion complete. I am now officially, irrevocably and unabashedly a caponata lover. A caponata cheerleader. And my Sicilian great grandmother can finally rest easy.
You’re welcome, Carmela!
This Sicilian eggplant appetizer gets a texture fix thanks to some walnuts and a flavor boost from preserved lemon. Also featuring peppers, tomatoes, black olives and fistfuls of fresh herbs.
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 1 teaspoon strong spice mixture or fresh black pepper *see recipe notes
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 large orange bell pepper chopped
- 1 large eggplant chopped
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 4 to 5 tomatoes chopped
- 1 cup pitted black olives I like oil cured
- 1 Tablespoon minced preserved lemon pulp and rind, seeds discarded
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
- 1 handful Italian flat-leaf parsley chopped
- 1 handful torn fresh basil leaves
- 1 heaping 1/2 cup walnuts chopped
In a large skillet (my 12" works) heat a healthy dose of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, Aleppo pepper, sumac, strong spice and tomato paste and sauté until onions have softened up and tomato paste darkens.
Add garlic and continue to sauté until the garlic becomes fragrant.
Add pepper, eggplant, vinegar and coconut sugar. Continue to cook stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. If things start to get sticky you can add a little water but do so sparingly.
Add tomatoes, olives, preserved lemon, parsley and oregano. Stir and cover.
Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant breaks down to your desired texture. Around 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in basil and walnuts. Serve warm with plantain chips and/or bread.
Strong spice mixture is a blend of long pepper, black pepper nutmeg and clove. I got it from a cookbook which gave me permission to reprint the full recipe on my blog in Romania, a medieval chicken dish. The spice mix is in the notes on that recipe. If you sub freshly ground black pepper, use less. 1/2 a teaspooon should be plenty.
A NOTE ABOUT SALTINESS
The combo of preserved lemon and oil cured black olives may make this too salty for some. If you're concerned about that
- rinse the preserved lemon before mincing it up
- use kalamata or your favorite milder black olives