As I note in this video – the first time I made caponata (an Italian sweet and sour vegetable dish), it didn’t turn out so well. Even as I was making it, I knew something was off. The list of ingredients already had me a little suspicious (olives, eggplant, raisins?) and then it looked like this chunky stew-thing that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. I pretty much wrote off the dish altogether.
But then I went to an Italian restaurant in Chicago (actually many years later) where they served a side dish that I noticed had many of the same ingredients. And I started to think, Aha, this must be caponata. First major difference between their deliciousness served with crostini and my science experiment gone awry? Balsamic vinegar. Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about using anything else. Second major difference – small vegetables. It should have a consistency similar to salsa when you’re finished. You should be able to dip bread in it without big chunks flying all over the place.
But the best is to make a big veggie sandwich out of it. I hate how some restaurants offer “grilled vegetable” sandwiches when you’re looking for a vegetarian option and it’s just a pile of greasy onions and peppers with no real flavor. Forget that nonsense. This is a veggie sandwich!
1 small onion
1 stalk celery
2 Japanese eggplants or 1/2 American
1 red bell pepper
2 big juicy tomatoes
big handful olives
big handful raisins
1 tbsp or so capers
1/4 cup or so balsamic, slightly less sugar to match
Cut all vegetables in small pieces. Saute in generous amount of olive oil – first onion and celery for a few minutes, then eggplant and pepper for a few more, then tomatoes until it becomes bubbly and boils down to the consistency of a salsa. Add the olives, raisins, capers, and oregano. Add balsamic and sugar at the end and taste as you go to make it just the amount of sweet and sour that you like. Serve with crostini or make that big veggie sandwich with some melted mozzarella and enjoy!