Nightshade vegetables are coming into season; it's the perfect time to make eggplant caponata. Actually, any time is perfect for this light but robust Sicilian vegetarian condiment. It's most often served as an antipasti (before the pasta) course. I often enjoy it as a snack on garlic rounds or good fresh bread, but it also makes a great pizza topping for pita pizzas or filling for an omelet, too. You can dress it up and trot it out as an entrée with the addition of fresh grilled shrimp. I've even thrown together a quick pasta sauce using this versatile little gem of Sicilian cuisine. Be sure to choose smooth-skinned, blemish-free eggplants. Raisins, currants, pine nuts and fresh basil are often added to the dish but I prefer it straight up and simple. Because of the acid content, it keeps for weeks in the refrigerator. Be sure to use good quality vinegars or you might ruin the dish.
2 1/2 pounds eggplant (washed and cut into 3/4 inch cubes)
1 large onion, diced
olive oil for sautéing
1 small bunch of celery, diced
4 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup of Sicilian green olives, sliced (carefully remove the pits)
1 small can tomato paste
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup good red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1) Salt the cubed eggplant lightly and set aside for an hour in a colander to drain off any bitter juices.
2) Sauté rinsed and dried diced onions and celery in olive oil until they're golden brown, then drain on paper towels.
3) Soak capers and sliced olives for 10 minutes in milk to remove some of the salt.
4) Sauté dried eggplant pieces until golden brown and also drain on paper towels.
5) Using the same pan, add more olive oil if needed, then add tomato paste diluted with a little water and the onions, celery, capers, olives, eggplant, vinegars and sugar.
6) Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
7) Add freshly ground salt and pepper if required. Serve cold.