Updated: Oct 4, 2021
Caponata is one of the most traditional Sicilian dishes, and one that is naturally vegan. Usually served as a side or appetiser, there are as many versions as there are households in Sicily.
This is my own version, which combines my favourite vegetables with a surprise ingredient (dark cocoa powder!) I've seen used in restaurants back home.
Ingredients (for 4)
2 large eggplants
250g chopped tomatoes
80ml vinegar (adjust to taste)
2 stalks celery
100g artichoke hearts
2 romano peppers
20g pine nuts
20 green or black olives (I used a mix of both)
A few parsley leaves
1 tbsp dried caper powder (see my Sicilian pizza recipe for details or just replace with salted capers)
1 tbsp brown sugar
Enough olive oil and frying oil (sunflower or canola) to fry the ingredients individually
1 tbsp dark cocoa powder
1 tsp red chilli flakes
Salt to taste
Wash the aubergines and cut into not too small cubes. Transfer to a colander, add plenty of salt, mix and let drain for about 30-40 mins, so that they lose the bitter ness.
Slice onions finely and brown over low heat in a non-stick pan with extra virgin olive oil for about 10 mins.
Peel and dice tomatoes removing the seeds. Wash the celery and cut it into slices. Also cut the olives into slices.
Take the capers and rinse them under cold running water to remove the excess salt. Or use my dried caper powder.
Add tomatoes and celery to the pan with the onion, mix to mix and continue cooking for about 5 mins. At this point add olives, capers, peppers, artichokes and pine nuts.
In another pan pour 2 fingers of sunflower oil and, when it is hot, deep fry the aubergines for 7-8 mins, cooking them a little at a time so as not to lower the temperature of the oil. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper and add them to the pan with the other vegetables. Continue cooking for another 2-3 mins.
Add vinegar, brown sugar, chilli and cocoa powder to the pan and raise the heat to evaporate the vinegar.
When the vinegar has evaporated, season with salt and turn off the heat. Let it rest for at least two hours and then serve the Caponata at room temperature! Top with fresh parsley.