½ - ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil (add as needed)
3 Chinese eggplants, diced ½ inch thick cubes
1 large sweet onion, peeled and diced
3 Inner leafs and stalks celery, diced
15-20 whole capers
10-12 green olives, pitted and cut in half lengthwise
20-25 toasted pine nuts
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
8-10 basil leafs, plus more to garnish, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1. Have all ingredients ready and vegetables diced about the same size before you begin cooking. This is the closest process to stir frying, Italian style. During this process, the vegetables are cooked quickly and separately and later merged together.
2. Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan at medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the diced eggplant. Sauté about 10-15 minutes keeping everything moving, until the eggplant is soft and has changed to a light brown color. Sample a piece of the eggplant to determine if it is done and season it properly to your taste. If the eggplant pieces taste a little crunchy, continue to cook them for a few more minutes. When the eggplants are ready, remove them from the pan and place them in a bowl. Reserve.
3. Add little more oil and the diced onion in the same pan. Sauté at medium-low heat until soft and slightly golden for 10-15 minutes. When the onion is golden, add the chopped celery stalks and leafs, capers, olives, pine nuts, red pepper flakes, dash salt and pepper, and garlic. Stir again until everything is tender and lightly browned for about 2-3 minutes. Move these ingredients to the bowl with the cooked eggplant. Reserve.
4. Add a little more oil if the pan is dry. Sauté the diced tomatoes. Let them sauté undisturbed for a few minutes, then stir then gently and season with salt and pepper. When the tomatoes are a little soft and aromatic, remove from the heat.
5. Put all of the ingredients from the bowl back into the frying pan with the cooked tomatoes. At medium-high heat, quickly stir all of the ingredients while adding the vinegar. Cook for 1-2 minutes to allow the vinegar to reduce. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed before removing from stove.
6. Remove the Caponata from the stove and add the fresh chopped basil. The Caponata should be somewhat peppery, barely crunchy, sweet and barely vinegary.
At first bite you should be able to identify each savory ingredient. Serve as an appetizer, a side dish, or over crostini.
Posted by Alba Carbonaro Johnson