I came across Caponata when I was going through my Italian cooking phase. And let me tell you, I still love to cook with Italian flavours but I. Was. Obsessed. Here’s me, borrowing every Italian cook book from the library I could find. Watching endless YouTube videos of Italian mammas cooking authentic dishes (in Italian I might add). I just couldn’t get enough.
One of the reasons I really love Italian cooking, aside from the taste, is how forgiving the recipes are. You really can’t go wrong. This was music to my ears, novice home cook that I was.
Caponata is a Sicilian sweet and sour eggplant dish. It’s traditionally eaten either warm as a side dish, or cold as an antipasto. Or, if you’re anything like me, it’s eaten with a side of delicious roasted cauliflower, peppery baby rocket and a lovely slice of toasted sour dough bread. Yum!
I just love to make Caponata because the ingredients are pretty much just thrown together in the one pot and then gently simmered for about 1/2 an hour. Couldn’t be easier. Furthermore, because of the vinegar it lasts really well in the fridge. I would even go so far as to say this dish tastes better the next day.
As with many Italian dishes, every Sicilian town has their own version of Caponata. You only need to Google the term ‘Caponata Recipe’ to come across innumerable versions of this dish. Each claiming to be the ‘authentic’ version, and each one slightly different.
Over time, I have tried several different renditions of this dish. Choosing my favorite flavours from each one, I came up with my own version. The following is my favorite way to make and eat Caponata at home. What’s your favorite way to cook Caponata?
Caponata Plate with Rocket and Roasted Cauliflower
1/2 medium head of cauliflower (cut into bite size florets)
2 cups of baby rocket
1tbs balsamic glaze
2 slices of sour dough bread
1 tbs olive oil
1 large purple eggplant (cut into medium cubes)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 small red onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (finely sliced)
1/3 cup green olives (the ones with the pips are tastier but the stuffed ones are easier – up to you)
1 tbs sultanas
3 tbs white wine vinegar
1 x 400g tin of diced tomatoes
a good handful of fresh, flat leaf parsley (roughly chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs flaked almonds (slightly toasted)
For the Roasted Cauliflower
- Pre-heat the oven to around 200C (fan-forced).
- Toss the cauliflower florets in some olive oil and spread them out evenly onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the cauliflower and then pop it in the oven for around 20-25 minutes or until the cauliflower is lovely and golden brown.
- Once it’s ready, set it aside to cool.
For the Caponata
- Grab your favorite medium/large pot and slowly heat the olive oil. Now add your eggplant cubes and gently fry until they become golden and and lovely. (eggplant can really drink up olive oil so if the pan seems a bit dry then add a little more oil)
- Now add your onion and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Once the onion and garlic has softened slightly add your olives and white wine vinegar.
- As soon as the vinegar has almost completely evaporated, add your tin of diced tomatoes, the sultanas, oregano, salt and pepper. Now fill the empty tomato tin with a little bit of tap water and add to the pot. Give the mixture a gentle stir and simmer uncovered for around 30 minutes.
- About 5 minutes before it’s ready add the parsley and stir through. Take it off the heat and pop a lid on the pot. Let it sit while you assemble your plate.
To assemble your plate
- Pop your sour dough bread in the toaster or under the grill to toast.
- Divide the rocket leaves between two plates and arrange the roasted cauliflower on top. Now drizzle the combination with the balsamic glaze.
- Slice your toast into triangles* and put them on the plate with the rocket and cauliflower, leaving a space on the plate for the Caponata.
- Put around 1/2 cup of Caponata onto each plate and sprinkle the toasted almonds on top. Enjoy!
*Make this dish vegan by omitting the butter on the toast.