Thursday, June 18, 2015

Crowd Pleasing Caponata

It's Thursday. Appropriately, today's post and recipe is a throwback. It brings back memories of our years in Maryland and to time spent catering art show openings at a little art gallery in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore. In those days, my Caponata was a favorite of exhibiting artists and gallery gawkers alike. These days, it's still a favorite of friends and family.

This eggplant, onion, olive appetizer is rich and velvety with a little celery crunch to offset the smoothness and it packs a little pizzazz via a hint of red pepper flake heat...and then there's this zippy sweet/sour vibe going on, too. Caponata is a hearty dish that somehow satisfies vegetarians and meat eaters alike which means it's a great recipe to have in your arsenal.

A traditional Italian appetizer, Caponata is nicely versatile, too. I like to serve it on toasted baguette slices or in lettuce cups, but it also makes the transition to dinner as a lovely topping for plain grilled chicken or even on a New Orleans-style muffaletta. My guess is that it works on a muffaletta because my version is more olive-y than the traditional ones...almost a cross between a tapenade and caponata. I use a lot less olive oil than the usual, too. Not that less olive oil makes my Caponata a diet dish, but all those veggies are good for you!

Give this delightful little dish a spin the next time you entertain. You might just find Caponata becomes a crowd pleaser in your recipe repertoire...and eventually earns a spot on your very own throwback list of favorite recipes.   


  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • 2 large eggplants, caps and bottoms cut off, half of the peel cut off (half left on for the beautiful color) and cut into 1/4" dice
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1/2 C petite diced canned tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 C pimiento stuffed green olives, diced
  • 1/2 C pitted kalamata olives, diced
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t dried hot pepper flakes
  • (optional) a jar of marinated artichokes, drained and diced

I use a large electric skillet.

Heat the oil in the skillet and cook eggplant until soft, but not browned. Remove the eggplant and set aside.

Add onions and celery and cook until the onions are soft, but the celery still has crunch.

Add tomatoes, olives and the eggplant; combine well. Add vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. If you're using marinated artichokes, add them in here.

Simmer for 15 minutes or so until nicely melded. Let the mixture come to room temperature before serving.

Serve in a bowl and let your guests top toasted baguette slices or Romaine lettuce leaves. It's really good just as a salad or even as a topping for grilled chicken or on a (not so) traditional New Orleans-style Muffaletta. 

Caponata diced sort of uniformly and simmering in the skillet.
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