All The Best recently hosted Lidia Bastianich, the popular cooking show host, chef and cookbook author, for an appearance and book signing that porved to be one of our most popular events ever. When I think of Lidia, I often remember an episode of one of her television shows where she was stirring a large sauté pan filled with simmering tomatoes, onions, olives, capers and glistening cubes of eggplants. It looked so good. I could almost smell the fabulous cooking aromas!
Inspired by Lidia, the other day I dashed to my local market to pick up the necessary vegetables, all now beautifully in season and at peak of flavour. Soon my kitchen was filled in reality with the aromas I had imagined. Enjoy this rustic Sicilian dish, Caponata, as part of an antipasto platter or serve as a side dish, warm or at room temperature, with grilled fish or meat. It reheats well and tastes even better the following day when the flavours have had time to develop.
6 tbsp (90 ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 young globe eggplants, peeled and cut into ¾” (2 cm) cubes
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp (2 ml) red pepper flakes
3 lbs (1.5kg) ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp (30 ml) capers, rinsed and drained
1 cup Cerignola (large, crisp, green) olives, smashed, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tbsp (30 ml) balsamic vinegar, or to taste
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Heat 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Add eggplant cubes in a single layer and sauté, turning often, until nicely browned on all sides. Remove to a paper-lined platter to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggplant cubes, adding more oil as required. Set aside. Reduce heat to medium, add 2 tbsp (30 ml) oil to the pan and add onion. Sauté onion until soft and lightly browned. Add celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened and juices are reduced, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in capers, olives and vinegar. Add browned eggplant cubes and simmer all together for 10 minutes for flavours to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve warm, or at room temperature with a garnish of fresh parsley. Makes about 6 cups.
All the best,