Serves 6 to 8
Caponata can last several days in the refrigerator and is even better after marinating for 24 hours. It is best eaten at room temperature, so remove it from the refrigerator about 2 hours before serving. Caponata is usually served as part of an antipasto assortment, although it makes a wonderful summer contorno, or side dish, to serve with grilled meats or fish. It also makes great topping for crostini; just chop it up into smaller pieces before spreading it on grilled bread. It’s certainly perfect for summer entertaining.
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch squares
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium zucchini (about 6 ounces), cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ¼ cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon drained capers in brine
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 fresh medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the red pepper, and cook 1 minute. Drain well and pat dry.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant cubes and fry, stirring and turning them so they cook evenly, until the eggplant is golden brown on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon, and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.
Heat the olive oil in a second large skillet. Add the zucchini, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and add to the eggplant. Add the onion and celery to the olive oil remaining in second pan, and cook until the vegetables are wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins, green olives, pine nuts, capers, and blanched bell pepper. Season with the salt and red pepper flakes, and continue cooking, stirring, until the vegetables are soft but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, and cook until they are softened, about 5 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, make the sugar-mint syrup. Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and the mint, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.
Pour the syrup into the skillet of vegetables, and cook until the vegetables are very soft and juicy but not broken up—you should be able to see the shape of each vegetable—about 3 to 4 minutes. Finally, stir in the eggplant and zucchini and cook 1 to 2 minutes to combine the flavors. This can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold from the fridge.