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Caponata with Fennel, Olives, and Raisins

Caponata with Fennel, Olives, and Raisins

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  • 1 1/2 pounds unpeeled eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped red bell peppers
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh fennel
  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Recipe Preparation

  • Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, bell peppers, fennel, and garlic; sauté until eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes. Add olives and raisins, then mix in tomato sauce and vinegar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer until caponata is thick and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer. Mix in basil. Season caponata to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe by Gemma Sanita Sciabica,Reviews Section

Is Caponata the Best Thing You Can Do With an Eggplant?

This article does not contain a photograph of caponata. Because, frankly, I want to convince you to cook it. And caponata ain't pretty to look at. But though the Italian eggplant dish may not be as easy of a sell as, say, crispy potatoes, it should be. Imagine pan-fried eggplant, simmered in a tomato sauce spiked with vinegar and maybe a little bit of sugar until the vegetables become tender and you're pretty much salivating. There are sometimes sweet raisins. And maybe salty olives. And you can eat it by the spoonful or spread it on toast.

Not convinced yet? Let me expand my argument. Sure there's plenty of other ways to use up your eggplant haul this season but here's why caponata trumps them all:

Caponata with Fennel, Olives, and Raisins - Recipes

Aubergines, for reasons beyond my understanding, often have a bad reputation. I have a friend who outright refuses to eat anything that could contain aubergine and another that only recently tried aubergines -at the ripe age of 20 - only after being coerced by other guests at the dinner table. Perhaps it’s their contentious character that makes aubergines my favourite vegetable: fried and laced with tahini in a sabich, layered with parmesan in a parmigiana or charred until smokey and scattered with pomegranate seeds, I am a die-hard Aubergine fan. When trying to reason with those that brand themselves’ anti-aub’, I can only deduce that they’ve had poor encounters with the vegetable in the shape of a sloppy, slimy excuse of a vegetarian option school-dinner.

Caponata, a sweet and sour Sicilian dish, is the love child of sweet tomato sauce and bouncy aubergines, that’s adorned with soft celery and the saltiness of capers and olives. It is not, I must add, an anglicised kind of sweet and sour in the way that sweet and sour chicken from your local Chinese takeaway is - that being crispy and swimming in a dubious bright sauce. Rather, Caponata is the kind of dish you’ll want to spoon onto a bruschetta and when it’s finished, swirl a hunk of good bread in the remaining oil. Eaten under the blanket of a cotton-candy sunset, each mouthful will have you thinking you’re sat in a square in Palermo - an example of eating for the life you want, rather than the one you have.

There are variations of Caponata, including the addition of raisins, peppers or fennel, but I think the most stripped back version of the dish is best, with a few basil leaves scattered on top to add some aroma and freshness. I prefer using olive oil to fry my aubergines, but if you prefer a neutral oil, feel free to do so when frying, just be sure to add a healthy amount of extra virgin olive oil when serving. Like most dishes, Caponata tastes better the day after as the aubergine mingles with the sauce and the flavour intensifies. In Sicily, it is traditionally served as a standalone antipasto at room temperature or as part of a spread alongside cold meats, cheese and good bread, ready to be piled high with edible paraphernalia. However, the gentle sweetness and sourness of the dish lends itself well when tucked into a sandwich, alongside chicken thighs or meaty fish or tossed with pasta - its versatility and charm is bountiful.

caponata (vg) (v) (gf)

cooking time: approximately 1hr

- 1 red onion, cut into rounds

- 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar

- fresh basil leaves and stalks

- 2 tbsp of olives (green or black, depending on your preference)

- 800g tinned peeled plum tomatoes

- extra-virgin olive oil for serving

heat your oil in a frying pan and when hot, add your cubed aubergines in batches until golden and lightly crisp.

drain your cooked aubergine cubes on a plate lined with baking parchment (or kitchen roll)

once all your aubergine is cooked, in the same pan add another glug of oil and sweat your onion on a low heat, until translucent

add your chopped celery, chopped basil stalks and allow to soften before adding your tinned tomatoes and tablespoon of sugar.

once your tomato sauce has thickened (this should take approximately 15 minutes) add your tablespoon of red wine vinegar, olives and capers and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes.

taste for acidity and saltiness, if you find its too much of the latter, add another tablespoon of vinegar, if it tastes too sweet to add a pinch of salt to your sauce.

when you’re happy with the sweet-sour ratio of your sauce, add your fried aubergine chunks to the pan and stir to incorporate.

take off the heat and allow to rest before scattering with basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil. Serve with plenty of good bread and a generous glass of wine.

notes: adding some scattered toasted pine nuts or flaked almonds upon serving are as aesthetically pleasing on the eye as they are to eat, adding a pleasant crunch to your Caponata.

Oven Baked Caponata

Growing up, from time to time my mother and father would go back and forth in Italian, usually whenever they didn’t want myself or my brothers ‘prying’ in on their conversation. Comically, this was sometimes a more frustrating task for them than one might think, with not-insignificant portions of their conversations being lost in translation between the ‘Standard Italian’ of my Lucanian father and my mother’s fully Sicilian dialect.

Remember, Italy’s unification was well within the living memory of my grandparents, while the country’s linguistic standardization happened well after they emigrated. Translation – regional differences were still quite real back then.

This distinction in their otherwise shared heritage possessed a pointed culinary edge – one that I wouldn’t fully appreciate until much later, since I largely took the style of my mother’s cooking for granted – it was simply a way of life, and one that I myself naturally emulated. Who knew that the garlic and oil sauces, grilled vegetables, and caponata I grew up with would become the vogue ‘authentic genius’ of some of this century’s most celebrated celebrity chefs.

That being said, more than perhaps any other recipe, caponata concisely encapsulates the flavor profile of the Sicilian cuisine, with spongy texture of the roasted eggplant thoroughly absorbing the caper, garlic, and pepper-laced juices of the sauce.

While caponata is sometimes served as a sort of ‘warmed vegetable salad,’ my preference, and its more typical serving style, is as a topping for bread either as the centerpiece of an antipasto or as the side to the main course.

The ‘meat’ of this dip, or salad if you prefer, is diced eggplant. While I typically peel my eggplants, some prefer to leave the skin. This is purely preference.

Once diced, combine the eggplants with two large diced tomatoes, chopped celery, garlic, capers, olives, and sliced Italian peppers. Now, I am well aware that there are some prominent caponata recipes sans the peppers, since some chefs believe that the peppers ‘take over’ the recipe. Honestly, this is akin to heresy in my book, one of those ‘authentic’ notes that, if removed, simply change the structure and flavor of the original a tad too much for my taste.

Again, however, this is preference.

From there, bake the mixed vegetables for about thirty minutes in the oven. After that, add in the crushed tomatoes, and give it a toss.

Then, mix together the raisins, sugar, and vinegar, and add that into the caponata, and then continue baking for about ninety minutes to two hours.

Now, while you may certainly serve this hot, caponata universally tastes worlds better the following day, I would strongly suggest letting it sit in the fridge for at least twenty-four hours.

What’s the Difference Between Ratatouille and Caponata?

One dish has an adorable Disney-Pixar movie featuring a spunky rat chef named after it. The other, well, it doesn’t. (Fail.) Cartoons aside, you could make this comparison of ratatouille and caponata into a culinary battle between France and Italy, but let’s be grownups. We, along with millions of others, are enamored with the cuisines from both European countries. For, like, ever.

Ratatouille is a popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic, and herbs — all simmered in olive oil. But the vegetables can vary according to what’s available or the cook’s taste. They can be cooked together or cooked separately and then combined and heated briefly together. Ratatouille can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature, as a side dish or appetizer with bread or crackers.

Caponata is a Sicilian dish that’s generally served as a salad, side dish, or relish. It’s composed of eggplant, onions, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, pine nuts, capers, and vinegar, all cooked together in olive oil. Oftentimes caponata contains something sweet like raisins or a touch of sugar. It’s most often served at room temperature.

The briny olives, pungent anchovies, tangy vinegar, and salty capers really differentiate the taste of caponata from ratatouille, despite their similar vegetables — eggplant, tomatoes, onions — and cooking method — mixed together in olive oil. Either dish would be great on pizza, in pasta, or on top of toasted French or Italian bread slices for bruschetta.

Check out these ways to use that big, shiny, purple vegetable.

You can cook ratatouille many ways, and the stir-fry way is a faster method, which we like for weeknight dinners. You stir-fry some vegetables first, remove them, and cook others next. The trick is the order, which can keep the vegetables from getting overcooked and mushy. Get our Ratatouille recipe.

These dishes are crying out to be placed atop slices of crusty bread, and this recipe comes to the rescue. Because you’re fitting this on small toasts, there aren’t that many large vegetables — just mainly the eggplant, onions, and capers. Oh, and white raisins sweeten it up a tad. Get our Caponata Bruschetta recipe.

This dish combines the traditional French ratatouille vegetables cooked in olive oil with the pasta of your choice, plus crumbled feta, lemon juice, and fresh basil. If you already have some ratatouille from another meal, this is a great way to use the leftovers. Get our Ratatouille Pasta recipe.

“A good caponata is like a sweet and sour eggplant jam, or even a pickled Mediterranean compote, with both crunch and softness,” says Deb Perelman on her Smitten Kitchen recipe post. Try this blogger-turned-cookbook-author’s take on the Italian specialty. Get the recipe.

Go the distance when picking your tomatoes for this James Beard House-adapted dish, which resembles bruschetta. The Pecorino contributes a wonderful salty bite. Get our Ratatouille Crostini with Pecorino recipe.


Lightly saute the onion, peppers and sliced garlic in the olive oil until they soften sprinkle with salt as they cook. Add the tomatoes, jalapeno, cumin, turmeric, ginger, saffron, fennel and sugar cook for 10 minutes or so, until thickened and saucelike. Stir in the capers, olives, raisins and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning you want a sweet- sour-spicy balance. Adjust the sugar, lemon juice and spices accordingly. Stir in the marjoram and/or parsley and the reserved chopped garlic, taste for seasoning and set aside to cool. Serve as a sauce with the chicken, or as a spread for crostini. Serves 4. PER (4th) SERVING: 185 calories, 2 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (2 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 281 mg sodium, 3 g fiber. Excerpt from SF Chronicle 05/06/98 Food Section see Busted by HANNEMAN Notes: "This is a variation on the classic Sicilian recipe, using peppers instead of eggplant. A caponata is sweet and sour, and very savory, much like a contemporary European chutney. This one is spicy, too -- a small dab on the citrus-spiced chicken breasts enlivens it brilliantly." Recipe by: Marlena Spieler, San Francisco Chronicle (1998) Posted to MC-Recipe Digest by Kitpath

33 eggplant caponata with raisins Recipes

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant Caponata

Veg: Eggplant Caponata

Veg: Eggplant Caponata

Caponata (Cold Eggplant (Aubergine) Appetizer)

Caponata (Cold Eggplant (Aubergine) Appetizer)

Grilled Eggplant Caponata Bruschetta with Ricotta Salata (Bobby Flay)

Grilled Eggplant Caponata Bruschetta with Ricotta Salata (Bobby Flay)


Caponata in Lavash Cups

Caponata in Lavash Cups

Caponata With Fennel, Olives and Raisins

Caponata With Fennel, Olives and Raisins

Dried Tomato Caponata

Dried Tomato Caponata

Caponata Picnic Sandwiches

Caponata Picnic Sandwiches

Caponata Picnic Sandwiches

Caponata Picnic Sandwiches

Grilled Caponata (Bobby Flay)

CAPONATA DI NATALE (Christmas, winter caponata made with celery, almonds and sultanas)

Not all caponate include eggplants.

This Sicilian caponata is certainly different to the Christmas fare we are used to in Australia, but it makes a perfect antipasto or salad as an accompaniment to meat or fish .

Eggplants and peppers are summer vegetables and not in season in winter for Christmas, so this caponata is made with celery hearts, traditionally boiled first before being sautéed. In some parts of Sicily green, leafy winter vegetables (for example chicory, spinach, endives) are also used with the celery.

I do not pre-cook the celery I prefer to slice it very finely and just sauté it till it is slightly softened.

It is a very unusual caponata with a combination of textures and flavours sweet, salty, sour… soft and crunchy. This recipe is one of the many caponate in my first book Sicilian Seafood Cooking.

Sultanas or currants are both good to use. Muscatels and raisins are OK as well, but their size may not be as visually pleasing.

Sometimes I toast the almonds, sometimes I do not. I made this caponata in a friend’s kitchen and on this occasion I used whole almonds rather than chopped ( the was no food processor/ kitchen wizz). On other occasions I have used pine nuts.

I have paired this with meat and fish but I really like to eat it on by it self… especially at the start of a meal.

almonds, 1 cup, blanched, toasted and chopped
celery, 1 large, but remove the outer leaves and only use the centre, pale green stalks and some of the fine leaves
onion 1, large, chopped
sultanas or currants, ¾ cup, sun-ripened
capers, ½ cup, salted or in brine
green olives, ¾ cup , stoned, chopped
white vinegar, ½ glass
sugar, 3 tablespoons
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
salt and freshly ground pepper

These can be sprinkled on top when the caponata is ready to serve:
Coarse Toasted Breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons, made from good quality 1-2 day old bread and then toasted in a frypan with hot oil.

Slice the celery finely and chop the leaves.
Sauté the celery with the onion in a deep frypan until it has softened, add salt and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the olives, sultanas and capers and cook for another 2 minutes.
Empty the cooked ingredients into a bowl.
Agro dolce sauce (sweet and sour sauce): To the frypan already coated with caramelised flavours, add the sugar and heat it very gently until it begins to melt and bubble. Add the vinegar and allow it to evaporate.
Add the vegetables to the sauce and some of the almonds, reserving some for decoration if you are not going to use the toasted breadcrumbs.

Leave the caponata in the fridge, at least overnight. Serve at Room temperature. Top with the rest of the almonds or breadcrumbs when ready to serve.

Seasonal Caponata

A traditional Sicilian dish, caponata is served as a salad, side dish or relish. The basic ingredients are eggplant, onions, tomatoes, olives and vinegar, but beyond that there are many variations.

The vegetables are fried separately to maintain the integrity of each flavor. It's meant to be a symphony of sweet and sour.

Chef Giorgio Locatelli allows that dieters may grill the vegetables, but he says the flavor from frying them is far superior. You'll need a thermometer for deep-frying.

Make Ahead: The eggplant needs to drain for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The caponata needs to sit for 2 hours (for the flavors to develop).

Servings: 6 - 8 main-course

Cut the eggplant into 1-inch dice and sprinkle generously with salt. Transfer the eggplant to a colander to drain for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, then squeeze it lightly to get rid of the excess liquid.

Drain the olives and use paper towels to pat them dry, then crush them lightly and remove the pits.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pine nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes or until they are golden brown, shaking them once or twice so they brown evenly. Let cool.

Spread the cubes of bread, if using, on a separate baking sheet, and toast for 5 to 12 minutes (at 350 degrees) or until golden. Let cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery and olives and cook until soft but not colored, about 10 minutes, then add the tomato paste. Stir the sugar and vinegar together in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved, then add to the skillet. Bring to a boil, then transfer the skillet mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, line the counter or a large baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Pour about 2 inches of vegetable oil into a deep saucepan, making sure the oil comes no farther than one-third of the way up the sides, and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.

Add the fennel and deep-fry it for 1 to 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fennel to the paper towels. Wait until the oil returns to 350 degrees, then repeat with the eggplant, followed by the zucchini.

Add the drained vegetables to the mixing bowl, then add the tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces, letting them fall into the bowl along with the raisins and pine nuts. Add the remaining 4 to 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, to taste season with salt and pepper to taste, then toss gently to combine. Cover with plastic wrap while the vegetables are still warm and leave at room temperature for 2 hours to infuse the flavors.

Twenty minutes before serving, mix in the toasted bread cubes, if using, and leave at room temperature to infuse.

Recipe Source

Adapted from "Made in Sicily," by Giorgio Locatelli with Sheila Keating (Ecco, 2011).

Caponata recipe

Eggplant and pepper stew from Sicily
I’m not a big fan of the French ratatouille, but this Sicilian caponata recipe with aubergine, peppers, capers and raisins is definitely something else.

I’m not a fan of the French ratatouille and try to avoid cooked salads or vegetable stews with onion, eggplants and tomatoes when possible, but Sicilian caponata recipe makes a delicious exception. The marriage between sweet and sour, vinegar and sugar, olives and raisins stands out as a pleasant surprise in combination with salty capers and the rather bland eggplants.

Caponata can be used as a side dish for fish and white meats or as a chilled antipasto served with bread or on top of a friselle bisquit, but it can also be used as a main vegetarian course.

Sicilians owe the recipe to Arab invaders. They introduced the south Indian eggplant to the Mediterranean region, and although the plant was considered poisonous until Carmelitan monks introduced the cooked version to the public towards the end of 1400, it soon became extremely popular. Classic caponata alone is said to exist in no less than 37 different versions depending on where on the island the recipe originates.

This recipe is my interpretation of a meeting between Elizabeth David and Michele Scicolone ie. no anchovies and tuna fish, but tomato paste instead of chopped tomatos. It tastes fantastic.

1 eggplant
1 bell pepper (red or yellow)
1 onion
2 sticks of celery
100 ml tomato paste (use the thin passato di pomodoro instead of concentrato di pomodoro)
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp capers
100 g black olives
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp roasted pine nuts
Olive oil

Clean all the vegetables and chop them up in cubes.
Heat the oil in a large casserole, and fry eggplant, onion, pepper and celery until tender. Fry them in turns, if the casserole cannot contain everything at the same time.
Put all the fried vegetables back in the casserole together with tomato paste, capers, raisins, sugar and vinegar. Stir well and leave the dish to simmer for 10 minutes.
Add olives and leave on low heat for another 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the caponata recipe with roasted pine nuts before serving.


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