Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant caponata made from tender eggplant, sweet roasted peppers and briny capers.

Armed with my new mandate to cook more western vegetarian food, I made my way to the grocery store today and wandered the aisles of lack-luster hothouse produce, hoping that something would jump out at me. Today, my inspiration came from a pile of shiny deep purple eggplants that carried with them a glimmer of summer (somewhere else in the world). As I was adding it to my basket I remembered a red bell pepper nearing the end of its life in the bottom of my veggie drawer as well as my second batch of dough (from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day) just waiting to be turned into a beautiful Boule.

“Something with eggplant and red bell peppers that I could eat with bread…” I thought… Caponata!

Caponata is one of those dishes that everyone has their own recipe for, but the general consensus is that it is a sweet and sour cooked eggplant dish which originated in Sicily. Countries bordering the Mediterranean all have similar dishes, but I really love the intensity of flavour and the versatility of Caponata. It’s like all the tastes of a late summer on the Mediterranean concentrated into something that you can spread on bread, put in a sandwich, or even toss with pasta.

To get the intense smokey flavour I was craving, I char grilled the bell peppers before peeling them. Then I salted my eggplant, which does a couple of things. First, it gets rid of the excess water, which prevents your finished dish from getting watery. Secondly, it collapses the cell membranes in the spongy eggplant preventing it from absorbing too much oil and getting greasy. The third thing is that it’s supposed to reduce the bitterness in eggplant, but honestly with the modern varieties we get around here, bitterness has never been an issue for me.

While the onions get sauteed in olive oil to sweeten them, I like to add the garlic at the very end to give the finished Caponata an edge that it would loose if the garlic were cooked.

As with any simple dish, the quality of the key ingredients is important. In this case, make sure you use fresh eggplant, identifiable by a green stem and smooth shiny skin that springs back when gently pressed. This dish also uses a lot of olive oil, so make sure you get one with a flavour you like. Lastly, there are a lot of “fake” balsamic vinegars out there and while I’m not telling you to fly to Modena to pick up a real bottle, you should make sure it doesn’t have additives like sugar or corn syrup. I love the concentrated flavour of a properly aged balsamic vinegar and while it’s not cheap, Whole Foods carries a 12 year aged one from Modena that’s fantastic.

The result? Delicious! silky smooth eggplant, mildly sweet, tart, full of smoky flavour and loaded with umami. The garlic adds just the right amount of spicy punch without overwhelming and the parsley brings a hint of freshness to an otherwise rich and full-bodied dish. If you want to brighten it even more, you can add a splash of lemon juice just before serving.

I baked a fresh boule to spread the Caponata on and also served it with some some cheese and butter fried flounder roe (more on this tomorrow).

Eggplant Caponata

1 medium globe eggplant peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 Tbs kosher salt (less if you’re using table salt)
1 red bell bell pepper seeds quartered, seeds removed
1/4 C olive oil
1 small onion chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs drained capers
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 C leaf parsley, stems removed and chopped

Put the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with 1 Tbs kosher salt. Toss to coat and leave it over a bowl for an hour.

Grill or broil the bell pepper until the skin is charred then wrap in foil until cool. Trapping the steam like this makes it much easier to remove the skins. When they are cool, peel the pepper and remove any excessively charred bits. Slice into thin short strips.

When the eggplant is done salting, rinse in a bowl of cold water to remove excess salt. Squeeze the eggplant with your hands to wring out as much moisture as you can.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions until until they are translucent and just start turning brown around the edges. Add the eggplant, bell peppers and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste stirring until the eggplant is very soft and starts to loose its shape.

Add the balsamic vinegar and capers and stir until there is no liquid left. Take off the heat and add the garlic and parsley. You can serve this immediately with some crusty bread, but it tastes even better the next day.

  • http://www.sophiesfoodiefiles.blogspot.com/ Sophie

    I love making aubergine caponata! I will try your recipe! thanks!

  • http://www.sophiesfoodiefiles.blogspot.com Sophie

    I love making aubergine caponata! I will try your recipe! thanks!

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com/ pigpigscorner

    Bitter? I didn’t know eggplants were suppose to be bitter. Looks really delicious. I’m craving for some char grilled bell peppers and eggplant too!

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com pigpigscorner

    Bitter? I didn’t know eggplants were suppose to be bitter. Looks really delicious. I’m craving for some char grilled bell peppers and eggplant too!

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    A great take on a classic Marc…beautiful!

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    A great take on a classic Marc…beautiful!

  • http://www.sugarbar.org/ diva

    what are the chances that we’d both post about the same vegetable on the same day! this looks damn tasty. I’m liking the flavours that work together and aaah, really good bread is just beautiful. x

  • http://www.sugarbar.org diva

    what are the chances that we’d both post about the same vegetable on the same day! this looks damn tasty. I’m liking the flavours that work together and aaah, really good bread is just beautiful. x

  • http://www.justgetfloury.com/ Ginny

    I love caponata! I think I change the recipe every time I make it…I’ve never roasted the peppers first… I’ll give it a try! thanks!

  • http://www.justgetfloury.com Ginny

    I love caponata! I think I change the recipe every time I make it…I’ve never roasted the peppers first… I’ll give it a try! thanks!

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com/ Elra

    Love caponata, delicious Marc.
    Cheers,
    Elra

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com Elra

    Love caponata, delicious Marc.
    Cheers,
    Elra

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    That caponata is looking really good!

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    That caponata is looking really good!

  • http://ohboykarencooks.blogspot.com/ Karen

    Mmm, this is my kind of treat :)

  • http://ohboykarencooks.blogspot.com Karen

    Mmm, this is my kind of treat :)

  • http://tastewiththeeyes.blogspot.com/ Lori Lynn

    Hey Marc, I posted roasted peppers today too.
    Thanks for the info on salting the eggplant, I always salt it, but did not know the scientific reasons why it works so well.
    LL

  • http://tastewiththeeyes.blogspot.com/ Lori Lynn

    Hey Marc, I posted roasted peppers today too.
    Thanks for the info on salting the eggplant, I always salt it, but did not know the scientific reasons why it works so well.
    LL

  • http://www.danatreat.blogspot.com/ Dana

    Gorgeous! This is one of the only ways I will eat eggplant and I really do love it.

  • http://www.danatreat.blogspot.com Dana

    Gorgeous! This is one of the only ways I will eat eggplant and I really do love it.

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    Great caponata! I love that yours has no raisins because I’ve always kind of wished they weren’t there in other versions I’ve had. Can’t wait to hear about the flounder roe.

    • marc

      Yea, adding raisins to caponata has always struck me as odd too. I’m actually not a big fan of raisins in general so maybe that’s part of it.

      • BeckyU

        I’m not crazy about the idea of using raisins, either, but I do like a little extra sweetness in mine. I used a very large, extra-sweet onion when I made it and got the same effect without that “raisin flavor”. It made a lovely sweet-and-sour caponata…especially when we sprinkled just a bit of crumbled feta over all. Delicious!

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    Great caponata! I love that yours has no raisins because I’ve always kind of wished they weren’t there in other versions I’ve had. Can’t wait to hear about the flounder roe.

    • marc

      Yea, adding raisins to caponata has always struck me as odd too. I’m actually not a big fan of raisins in general so maybe that’s part of it.

  • http://www.thekneadforbread.com/ Chuck

    OK, I need a slice of that bread with a huge topping of that Eggplant Caponata. No, forget the bread just give me a spoon full of that spread! lol

  • http://www.thekneadforbread.com Chuck

    OK, I need a slice of that bread with a huge topping of that Eggplant Caponata. No, forget the bread just give me a spoon full of that spread! lol

  • http://www.tan-kitchen.com/ Tan

    Lovely recipe I think should be great for make a bite side for Appetizer. Can?
    Have a wonderful weekend.;)

  • http://www.tan-kitchen.com Tan

    Lovely recipe I think should be great for make a bite side for Appetizer. Can?
    Have a wonderful weekend.;)

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    Okay so there I was thinking I was craving chocolate but really I want some of this. Why didn’t I buy an eggplant at the market this morning!? (by the way, I am from that *somewhere* where it is summer at the moment). Will definitely be making this soon!

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com/ Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    Okay so there I was thinking I was craving chocolate but really I want some of this. Why didn’t I buy an eggplant at the market this morning!? (by the way, I am from that *somewhere* where it is summer at the moment). Will definitely be making this soon!

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com/ [eatingclub] vancouver || js

    How fortuitous for me! I was uninspired when I picked up a couple of eggplants the other day. Now I have a plan.

    Your boule also looks fantastic.

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com [eatingclub] vancouver || js

    How fortuitous for me! I was uninspired when I picked up a couple of eggplants the other day. Now I have a plan.

    Your boule also looks fantastic.

  • http://TheRecipeGirl.blogspot.com/ RecipeGirl

    That’s looking pretty delicious. Wish I had seen this yesterday when I was searching for an app to bring to friends house last night! This looks infinitely better than what I ultimately chose.

  • http://TheRecipeGirl.blogspot.com RecipeGirl

    That’s looking pretty delicious. Wish I had seen this yesterday when I was searching for an app to bring to friends house last night! This looks infinitely better than what I ultimately chose.

  • Pingback: Butter Fried Flounder Roe | [ No Recipes ]

  • http://www.flanboyanteats.com/ Bren

    I’m loving this! I remember hating eggplant when I was a child and I absolutely love it now as an adult. It’s such a great vegetable (fruit, really). Reminds me of tapanade.

    • marc

      Yea, I wasn’t a picky eater when I was little, but eggplant, bell peppers and shrimp were 3 things I didn’t like then that I love now. I still haven’t gotten over my aversion to black licorice yet though, I do try it every now and then to see if things have changed.

  • http://www.flanboyanteats.com Bren

    I’m loving this! I remember hating eggplant when I was a child and I absolutely love it now as an adult. It’s such a great vegetable (fruit, really). Reminds me of tapanade.

    • marc

      Yea, I wasn’t a picky eater when I was little, but eggplant, bell peppers and shrimp were 3 things I didn’t like then that I love now. I still haven’t gotten over my aversion to black licorice yet though, I do try it every now and then to see if things have changed.

  • http://www.buffchickpea.com/ Hayley

    This looks delicious. I might have to try that suggestion to toss it with some pasta. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.buffchickpea.com Hayley

    This looks delicious. I might have to try that suggestion to toss it with some pasta. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com/ Daily Spud

    Key phrase there is “loaded with umami”. I like… :)

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com Daily Spud

    Key phrase there is “loaded with umami”. I like… :)

  • http://www.dandysugar.com/ lisa (dandysugar)

    Love this caponata!

  • http://www.dandysugar.com lisa (dandysugar)

    Love this caponata!

  • Pingback: Caos na Cozinha

  • Kutekiwi89

    So delicious! Am about to make it for a second time and can’t wait to taste the goodness in my mouth!!

  • KD

    Outstanding! All recipes from you that I use are altered in name. Case in point: “Eggplant Caponata Matsumoto”. My family/friends ask, is this a Matsumoto-san recipe? Indeed, ono!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hahaha, great story, thanks for sharing:-)

  • SBS

    Made this recipe today with veges from our weekly CSA basket. Absolutely outstanding! This recipe is definitely a keeper and will be served often at our house. Thank you.

  • Zyxomma

    I’m making caponata today. I’m slow cooking (250 degrees F) 2 eggplants, red pepper, onion, shallot, and tomato. When that’s done, I’ll slow-bake some more tomatoes, tomatillos, and fennel (I’m using it in place of celery, which I don’t have today). The raisins are soaking while the fruits and veggies bake; then I’ll combine everything (I’m using sun dried capers, sun dried black olives, and garlic stuffed green olives in addition to the other things listed) in the cast iron skillet with a nice glug of EVOO and some fine balsamic. All my beautiful veggies and fruits are organic, and came from today’s Greenmarket. Cooking “low and slow” concentrates sweetness, in case you were wondering what the low temp oven is about. Health and peace.

Welcome!

I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!