There are a few things that just scream Summer is coming without a glance at the calendar for my family. Central Park is in full bloom, NYC is preparing for its first heat wave and my cooking becomes a bit fresher, lighter, and easier to prepare and take to the beach! A recipe that kicks off the Summer season for us and remains a staple throughout is my Caponata. It’s foolproof and a crowd pleaser and is best eaten cold which makes it the perfect dish to bring to any summer get-together.
The meaning of Caponata in Italian is a relish of chopped eggplant and assorted vegetables. It’s refreshing and light, full of fiber, and yet very savory, flavorful and filling. Caponata is essentially a Sicilian, sweet and sour version, of ratatouille. It’s very quick and easy to make and it stays fresh in the fridge for a week or longer!
I serve Caponata as a side dish but I also love it mixed in my salads, as a topping on toast and crackers with cheese or on its own in a bowl with a big ole spoon. It’s incredibly savory with just a hint of sweet; the perfect combination. An added bonus is that it gets better with time. Make it a few days in advance, store it in the fridge and as the days pass, the flavors intensify.
Even though my family associates my Caponata as our staple Summertime dish (we eat it cold) I could literally eat it just about every morning of the year. For breakfast, I love it on toast with my farmer’s cheese. It’s actually a great way to get your vegetables in first thing in the morning. It’s full of fiber so you’ll be nice and full for longer!
A couple of things to note about my recipe below, the eggplant is roasted in cubes in the oven on high heat before added to other vegetables. Unlike the way I roast a lot of other vegetables, I DO NOT add any oil to the eggplant while roasting. Eggplant could easily absorb all the oil like a sponge and the roasting of it without gives it a nice smoky flavor! I rough chop all the veggies (literally nothing fancy) and sauté them in a pan while the eggplant is roasting. It’s a very simple dish with bold flavors and if you didn’t know already, you’ll quickly learn not to underestimate eggplant! Since eggplant is very sponge-like, the roasted eggplant absorbs ALL the incredible flavors you are mixing it with and becomes the most sweet and savory vegetable you could ever imagine!
My family and I always see Summer as the time to take a breath. While work and life still spin on as usual, it is nice to spend less time on monotonous tasks and more time outside relaxing and having fun. My quick, easy and delicious Caponata will have you out of the kitchen and outside in no time. Whether it becomes a side to the hot dog/hamburger at your BBQ or as a showstopper on your charcuterie board served for friends, I hope it becomes a staple of your Summer. xx Janine
Janine’s Summer Caponata
Ingredients: Preheat oven to 350 to roast the eggplant 1 large eggplant – cut into medium size cubes, roasted until brown on a cookies tray lined with parchment paper 2 medium onions (any type) – chopped 2 Tablespoons olive oil 8 stalks celery – chopped 2 red peppers – deseeded and chopped 1 cup fresh mint (and or Basil) – chopped 4 large garlic cloves – chopped 4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar 3 Tablespoons honey 1 large can tomatoes or 2 small cans (around 28 oz total) Pepper to taste (red pepper flakes if you a like a little more heat)
Cut the eggplant into cubes – roast on a large cookie tray lined with parchment paper, 350 convection roast. Roast about 25 minutes until brown. While the eggplant is roasting, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large sauce pan and sauté on medium heat the chopped onions with the chopped celery until almost brown. Add the peppers and the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the eggplant and stir well, add the chopped mint (or basil) and cook for another minute. Add the large can or tomatoes, the 4 tablespoons vinegar, 3 tablespoons of honey and pepper to taste. Stir well, cover with a lid. Simmer on low/medium heat for 45 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for a few hours, transfer to a storage container and chill in the fridge.