Caponata: Mediterranean medley of summer vegetables

Caponata is usually served cold as an antipasto or as a side dish for meat and fish.

Originally hailing from Sicily, caponata is a Mediterranean medley of summer vegetables which are slowly cooked and combined with sugar and vinegar to create a sweet and sour vegetarian stew.

Ingredients vary from recipe to recipe and town to town, but all agree on the use of aubergine as the main component.

This version adds the stunning colours of plump peppers, the freshness of basil and parsley and a sticky sweetness from sultanas, but you could also experiment by adding tomato, capers and pine nuts to play with different flavours and textures.

One important tip is to fry the aubergine separately to begin with. This will seal the exterior ensuring that it does not turn mushy and lose its character in the finished dish.

Towards the end of cooking it is also a good idea to taste and, if necessary, adjust the amount of sugar or vinegar to create the perfect balance of ‘agrodolce’.

Caponata is usually served cold as an antipasto or as a side dish for meat and fish, but it is just as satisfying crammed into a panino or served hot as a main course with plenty of bread to scoop up the delicious juices.

Caponata
2 aubergines
3 red/yellow peppers
3 onions
2 sticks of celery
1 bunch of fresh basil
1 bunch of fresh parsley
100g sultanas
4 tbsp sugar
200ml white wine vinegar
Salt
Extra virgin olive oil

First, place the sultanas in a bowl and cover them with hot water to soften them.

Cut the peppers, onion and celery into large pieces and place in a large pan with a cup of olive oil and a good sprinkle of salt. Cook on a medium heat for 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the aubergines into large chunks. Heat a splash of olive oil in a separate, non-stick frying pan and cook the aubergine with a little seasoning of salt for about 10 minutes.

Once the aubergine is cooked transfer into the pan of peppers and cook everything together for another 5 minutes.

Chop the basil and parsley and add to the pan along with the drained sultanas, sugar and vinegar, mix everything well and cook gently for a further 15-20 minutes.

Recipe by Kate Zagorski

Kate Zagorski has lived in Italy since 2000. Married to a food-obsessed Roman chef, she leads food tours and also works as a freelance food and travel writer. For more of her recipes see Wanted in Rome page.