Maybe I should avoid publishing this dish, eggplant caponata, which is very well known, but It was adopted by my mom as the official vegetable plate of the summer, along with an amazing ratatouille, and I miss summer…
And the other reason why I public a fantastic caponata is that I live abroad and the caponata is not so trivial in this place: so now I present you one of the most glorious dishes of Italian cuisine, or better, of Sicilian cuisine which in my humble opinion deserves a voice and a special place in the firmament of the great cuisines of the world.
Sicilian cuisine is the essence of the Mediterranean food, a mix so perfect that a has rode through the ages integrating ingredients and flavors.
A kitchen poor and rich at the same time, monastic and opulent, who dares to taste a flavor that is not so used in the rest of the Italian territory: the bittersweet, an Arabic and ancient heritage.
The recipe was found obviously in one of the many legendary slip of paper of my mom, and probably behind that slip of paper there’s a story like this: “But do you remember that Sicilian lady taht we met in Libya who had 4 children, all boys, then her husband was send in the Saudi Arabia and she remained in Tripoli alone !?. ”
I obviously do not remember, because the family memories are so different between members of the same family that they just do not seem to be relatives. Anyway, in the memories of my mother there is almost always some brave or adventurous woman one, or simply curious, that has a lot of children, are the stories of women of various nationalities that always bring with them a recipe.
Sometimes given the linguistic misunderstanding between women of so different countries , we were not able understand the name of the recipe and so they magically becomes something like Hungarian spinach , Persian rice, Hazine pie .
Despite the not so subtle pressures, my mother said that she does not still want to write her memories and so for now we must be content with the fragments of our memories to collect these stories od lifes and recipes.
This is my mom’s recipe of caponata , as I said, it is of uncertain origin, though certainly Sicilian, my mom is in this philological, but you know that every family has its own secret, on its way to cook and so on, then if you have other versions write me and I will integrate this post.
- 2 large eggplants (about 500 g)
- 3 stalks of celery (about 200 g)
- 250 g tomatoes San Marzano type
- 1 onion
- 1 handful of pitted green olives (about 100 g)
- two tablespoons of salted capers, desalted (possibly the small ones of Pantelleria)
- 1 tablespoon of pine nuts (20 g)
- 1 tablespoon of raisins (20 g)
- 3 tablespoons wine vinegar (my mother uses the apple vinegar so making a Nordic digression ) (100 ml)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (25 g)
- Coarse salt as needed
- Olive Oil as needed
- Salt and pepper as needed
You will need:
- Cutting board and knifes
- A large colander
- A frying pan to brown the eggplant
- A pan
Wash and clean the aubergines, remove the stalk and the base and cut them into cubes.
Put the cubes in a colander sprinkled with a handful of coarse salt and leave to eliminate fluid vegetation for about half hour.
Wash the celery and elimate the harder filaments , cut into sticks and then put in boiling salted water for about 3-4 minutes, should be cooked but crisp. Drain and let cool, then cut into small pieces.
Blanch the tomatoes and eliminate peel, then cut them into pieces.
Peel the onion and cut into slices.
Rinse quickly the eggplant with cold water to remove the salt .
In a pan heat three tablespoons of olive oil and then add the eggplant and let it fry, put salt and pepper. drain with a slotted spoon and put to dry on a plate with paper and set aside.
In a saucepan cook the onion with a little oil, as soon as it is golden, add the celery and olives.
Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes to blend the flavors, then add the tomatoes and continue to cook for 6-7 minutes.
Add the eggplant, pine nuts and capers and stir gently.
Dissolve sugar in vinegar and pour it on the caponata.
Cook for another 15-20 minutes on low heat until it is all blended.
The eggplant arrived in Sicily in 800 by the Arabs. It was seen with great suspicion by the Europeans who thought it was unhealthy f and therefore they called it unhealthy apple: mela insana: melanzana.
The english name is due to the type of cultivar of 18th centuty that were white or yellow, like big hen’s egg, the archaic englisg name was mad apples, almost like the italian name.
Surely the color and the bitter taste had not contributed the early success of this vegetable.
The Arabs bring the eggplant in Sicily and Spain, and slowly, first as a poor dish and then slowly it overcome the distrust of the wealthy classes and it become one of the most important ingredient of the Sicilian cuisine.