Updated: Jul 19, 2022
I love caponata! the first time I had this dish was at a friend's house in the Bay Area over 20 years ago and have been obsessed with finding the perfect recipe ever since then. This is that perfect recipe.
Caponata, which translates to "a dish of various things" is a traditional Sicilian dish. Arab traders and the Moorish wars introduced eggplants to Italy and the vegetable quickly integrated into the local cuisine. The first known recipe for caponata is from Messina in 1759, so this is an old dish with a lot of history. The dish is cooked in the traditional "agrodolce" style, sweet and sour, and has several piquant ingredients that include olives, anchovies, capers and currants, dried apricots, or raisins depending on the countless variations of the dish. More on caponata here.
I have been making lots of variations of this dish, but here is the recipe that is perfect in every way. The eggplant is perfect, tart from the vinegar and pomegranate molasses, spicy from the chilli and arugula, and wonderfully flavored from the pine nuts and herbs. The wonderful relish is balanced, literally, on creamy and decadent burrata cheese on sourdough bread. This is an absolute decadent canapé, one that tells your guests that you care.
Some cookbooks make me happy when I cook from them. The flavors and dishes are amazing. I waited a long time before I decided to buy this book and then regretted that decision. This is a beautiful book, the recipes are very unique in how this genius chef puts together flavors and dishes. All the recipes pop with flavors, beautifully laid out dishes, and wonderful food. This restaurant is definitely on my bucket list the next time I am in Venice, California.
For more delicious recipes from this cookbook click here.
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons pine nuts, lightly toasted till aromatic
1 lb eggplant, Globe or Italian variety
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Olive oil spray
I large red pepper
1/4 cup Pomodoro sauce, see recipe below
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovies + 1/2 teaspoon anchovy oil
2 tablespoons yellow raisins or currants
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses or sweet balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons arugula, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
2 tablespoons basil, minced
1 tablespoon mint, minced
For the Pomodoro sauce:
1 tablespoon oil
3 small tomatoes, very finely diced
4-5 basil leaves
Salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Lay on a lined baking sheet and spray generously with olive oil. Dust some salt and pepper on the eggplant cubes. Roast for about 15-20 minutes till the eggplant are soft but still holds its shape. Remove and cool.
Roast the red pepper with the eggplant till it is charred on all sides and soft. Cool, peel and seed the pepper. Cut to small dice and set aside.
To make the Pomodoro sauce, add all the ingredients to a small pot and simmer closed for 20 minutes till the tomatoes have broken down and formed a sauce. Stir often to keep the sauce moving. Add a few tablespoons of water towards the end if needed.
Add the oil to a wide pan and sauté the onions and garlic on low heat till very soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Do not color the onions. Add the anchovies and cook for an additional minute till the anchovies have almost dissolved into the oil. Add the roasted red pepper and cook for an additional minute. Add the pine nuts, and raisins, and cook for an additional minute.
Add the pomegranate molasses and the Pomodoro sauce and mix in well. Add the red wine vinegar, pepper flakes, arugula, parsley, basil, and mint and mix in well. Simmer gently simmer for 3-4 minutes to integrate the flavors. Taste the sauce, it should be very bright with a good balance of tart and sweet. Adjust, the salt and spice as per your tastes.
Integrate the eggplants into the sauce gently, they will tend to fall apart. Mix well and set aside in the fridge for at least 3 hours, but overnight is very strongly preferred.
To assemble the dish, toast the sourdough slices. Top with a generous smear of the burrata cheese. Top with a loaded teaspoon of the eggplant mix. Garnish with fresh mint and the toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately before the toasts begin to start getting soggy.