• 8 medium size aubergines (eggplants)
• 400 grams of peeled mature tomatoes
• 2 medium size sweet white or yellow onions
• the heart of a large celery
• 200 grams of pitted large cured firm green olives
• 200 grams of capers (if salted soak in water and drain to remove salt)
• extra virgin olive oil
• white vinegar
Reflecting Sicily’s Arab heritage, this classic recipe (but without the tomatoes, a New World discovery) probably dates from the ninth century, when it is believed that the eggplant (aubergine) was introduced in Sicily by the Saracens. Culinary historians debate whether eggplants were grown in Sicily earlier, perhaps in Roman times, but hardly anybody disagrees that caponata is delicious. It should be served chilled as an antipasto (appetizer). There are popular variations of this recipe; some versions call for the addition of artichokes, sweet peppers or more sugar.
1• Cut the eggplants into chunks about one inch or two centimetres square. (You may prefer slightly larger or smaller pieces.) Do not peel.
2• Cook these by steaming covered in a large pot until completely cooked but firm. (Don’t boil them.) Drain well and set aside.
3• Chop the tomatoes into small pieces or a thick pulp, without discarding the juice or seeds.
4• Chop the onions into medium pieces or thin slices.
5• Cut the celery stalks into pieces about one inch long. Discard leaves.
6• Halve the olives.
7• In a large pan, sauté the onions and celery pieces in olive oil. The celery should be lightly cooked, firm but not raw.
8• Add the tomato pulp and bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes until the sauce changes color to a lighter red.
9• At this point, simmer over low heat for another 4-6 minutes.
10• Add the eggplants, olives and capers to the mixture.
11• Also add a few tablespoons each of olive oil, vinegar and sugar. Stir gently and allow to simmer covered (steaming) for about five minutes over medium-low heat until mixture thickens but doesn’t burn.
12• Remove from heat and allow to cool. Salt to taste. Then chill for at least three hours before serving.