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Unconventional Eggplant Caponata Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
35 mins

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.

Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 people
Author: Christine | Mid-Life Croissant
  • 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
  1. 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.

  2. Add garlic and continue to sauté until the garlic becomes fragrant.
  3. 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.

  4. Add tomatoes, olives, preserved lemon, parsley and oregano. Stir and cover.

  5. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant breaks down to your desired texture. Around 15 minutes.

  6. Remove from heat, stir in basil and walnuts. Serve warm with plantain chips and/or bread.

Recipe Notes

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.


The combo of preserved lemon and oil cured black olives may make this too salty for some. If you're concerned about that

  1. rinse the preserved lemon before mincing it up
  2. use kalamata or your favorite milder black olives