Maybe it's my Italian heritage coming out, but I think there is no other dish so perfect for warm autumn days, and none so wonderful a celebration of autumn's bright vegetables than the humble caponata!
Our version of caponata isn't just about eggplant, like most are. Here, the fruity, sweet red pepper and super ripe and jammy tomatoes demand equal attention. And so they should. Combined, the trio is more magical than any one of them on their own. Add to that last season's preserved olives and you have a dish that will hopefully become as much a staple in your home as it has in ours.
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SERVES 4 AS A SIDE OR 2 AS A MAIN
1 dried chili, torn into pieces
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 large eggplant, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon unrefined sugar
½ teaspoon unrefined salt
12 ounces very ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
3½ ounces black olives, pitted
5 parsley sprigs, stalks and all, finely chopped
5 Greek oregano sprigs, leaves picked and finely chopped
½ cup well-packed basil leaves, torn
- Place a large, shallow frying pan over a medium–high heat. Sauté the onion, chili, and black pepper in a generous splash of oil until the onion has softened but not yet started to brown.
- Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the garlic begins to brown.
- Add the bell pepper, eggplant, balsamic, sugar, and salt and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water to the pan if it starts to stick.
- Add the tomatoes, olives, parsley, and oregano; stir well and cover.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant has completely broken down (about 15–20 minutes).
- Remove from the heat, stir in the basil, squeeze over the lemon, and drizzle with a generous splash of oil.
Serve hot or cold with buttered sourdough and plenty of red wine!
Made it? Tell us about it–