The dish more people probably associate with Sicily than any other is caponata.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
2 1/4 pounds eggplants
1/2 pound green olives packed in brine, pitted
6 ounces salted capers, rinsed
1 1/4 pounds celery ribs
1 cup tomato sauce (optional)
2/3 pound onions
2/3 pound tomatoes
1/3 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
3/8 cup pine nuts
Begin by stripping the filaments from the celery sticks, then blanch them in lightly salted water for five minutes. Drain them, cut them into bite-size pieces, sauté them in a little oil, and set them aside.
Wash the eggplant, dice them, put the pieces in a strainer, sprinkle them liberally with salt, and let them sit for several hours to draw out the bitter juices. While they’re sitting, blanch, peel, seed and chop the tomatoes.
Once the eggplant has sat, rinse away the salt and pat the pieces dry. Finely slice the onion and sauté them in olive oil; once they have turned translucent add the capers, pine nuts, olives, and tomatoes. Continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the tomatoes are done, about 15 minutes, and then remove the pot from the fire.
While the tomatoes are cooking heat a second pot of oil and fry the diced eggplant, in several batches to keep the oil from getting chilled. When the last batch is done, return the tomato pot to the fire and stir in the eggplant, together with the previously sautéed celery. Cook for several minutes over a low flame, stirring gently, then stir in the vinegar and the sugar; when the vinegar has almost completely evaporated remove the pot from the fire and let it cool.
Serve the caponata cold with a garnish of fresh basil. It keeps for several days in the fridge and improves with time.