O Caponata! My Caponata!

Eggplants and patty-pan
Wee eggplants and squash were this week’s CSA standouts.

The blue ribbons in this week’s sharebox were actually purple: Six perfect, wee eggplants.

I dispatched three of them straight away Monday night (a Meatless Monday), sauteéing a quick pasta topping that included onions, patty-pan squash, Malabar spinach, and a confetti of cherry tomatoes, all from this week’s share.

The remainder I earmarked for a kitchen-sink caponata, the versatile, sweet-and-sour, Sicilian salad to which you can add just about anything, it seems, as long as you start with eggplant and celery. In late summer (is it really late summer already?), I like to keep a jar handy to spoon over toasts, toss with pasta, or dress up a cheese board. There’s no need to can it, even; thanks to a hefty spike of vinegar, it’ll last for nearly a month in the refrigerator.

Late summers, I keep a jar of sweet-tangy caponata in the fridge to top off bruschetta and dress up pasta.

Using Urban Vegan’s recipe as a base (find Dynise’s wonderful cookbook here), on the rainy first day of August, I made the first small batch of the season.

In addition to the stock eggplant and celery, in went a rogue patty pan (it had hidden among the spinach), a handful of olives – black and green – that were leftover from a party a few weeks ago, the remnant half of a huge sweet onion I’d used in Monday’s pasta, and carefully carved hunks of my first three heirloom tomatoes. Robins had pierced the formerly perfect globes in exactly three spots each, but I was able to salvage about half of each fruit.

August caponata

adapted from Urban Vegan

  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup mixed olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of applesauce
  • 3 small eggplants, diced
  • 1 medium patty-pan squash, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh celery leaf, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

If you’re using more mature eggplants that are likely to have some of the fruit’s stereotypical bitterness, you may want to “degorge” it before you dice. Simply slice it into rounds, sprinkle in some salt, and let it drain in a colander for 20-30 minutes. Rinse it well, pat it dry with a paper towel, and dice it to match the size of your other ingredients.

The little guys I had weren’t bitter at all (as I learned Monday night), so I skipped that step.


Coat the bottom of a large saucepan or medium Dutch oven with olive oil. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and soft.

Add the red pepper; cook 5 minutes more. Add the raisins, olives, and applesauce; let it go for another 5 minutes.

Tomatoes, eggplant, squash, pepper

Add everything else. Stir it through well, bring to a simmer, cover, and stew for 30-40 minutes, until everything is quite soft. Remove the lid and reduce the liquid to get the consistency you like. Taste, and adjust the seasoning.

Serve hot over pasta or rice, or at room temperature over toasted bread or as a condiment. Will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Tammy says:

    I just made some of this using Mario Batali’s recipe – it has cinnamon and some currants. It was very interesting.

    1. Susan says:

      Did you like it, Tammy? I used to add cinnamon (so Sicilian!), but have fallen out of the habit. Most recipes also call for capers, but I’m not a fan, so I leave those out, too.

      1. Tammy says:

        I did. It had a bit of kick but others didn’t like it so much.

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