Caponata Eggplant Appetizer
is an eggplant vegetable salad that is cooked and served cold as an appetizer or warm as a side dish.
One of my favorite childhood holiday food memories is Nonna’s caponata which she always made during holidays. I seem to remember we always had it at Christmas, but to be honest I’m thinking it was ‘ALWAYS’ on the table for company or a holiday.
For those unfamiliar with Caponata it is a Sicilian eggplant appetizer – a cooked vegetable salad made using cubed fried eggplant, celery, olives, capers, pine nuts and tomatoes seasoned with vinegar and a hint of sugar to give this cooked salad it’s sweet and sour flavors.
I make this dish several times during the year, not just during the holidays. This is easy to make and can be served room temperature or cold – it’s almost a perfect appetizer to serve in the warmer weather.
My favorite reason to make Caponata eggplant appetizer is that it’s a great vegetarian dish full of flavor. I always like serving a vegetarian option.
What I love about this dish in today’s eat healthy, make it easy and flexible cooking style is it hits all the marks – it’s healthy, low in fat and calories, it’s easy to prepare, and it’s a very versatile dish not to mention it is flexible – add in what you like and leave out what you don’t.
A traditional Sicilian Caponata is made first by cutting the eggplant into cubes and fried in oil. The eggplant absorbs much of the oil so I’ve made this a recipe re-dux by roasting the cubed eggplant with the shallots. This cuts back on the fat calories and prep time.
Eggplant is not as dense as carrots or potatoes which makes the roasting time shorter. Saute the onions and celery while the eggplant is roasting and prepare the remainder of the ingredients saving time along with those calories. From start to finish you will need 50 minutes or less (the roasting takes 30-40 minutes, then a few minutes more to simmer).
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 large shallots, cut in large slices
- 1 large sweet onion, cut in ½" cubes
- 4 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and cubed
- 1 cup green Sicilian olives, pitted & halved
- 1 cup black Sicilian olives, pitted & halved
- 1 jar marinated artichokes, lightly rinsed & cut in chunks
- 1 TBLS. capers
- 1-2 TBLS. pine nuts (optional)
- 1 14 oz. can tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (your preference)
- 1½ TBLS. Balsamic Vinegar
- Cut up the eggplant and shallots and place on a sheet pan lined in parchment paper and toss with olive oil to coat (use aluminum foil with a little cooking spray if you don't have parchment). This takes approximately 40 minutes.
- While eggplant is roasting, cut up onions and celery and saute in 1 TBLS. olive oil in a large saucepot (approx. 3½ qt.) approximately 8-10 minutes or until opaque, stirring often.
- Add in the roasted eggplant and shallots stirring to blend then add in the tomato sauce and simmer on med/low heat.
- While the eggplant is simmering you can cut up the olives and artichokes and add in to the saucepan with the pine nuts and capers and continue to cook until flavors are well blended, approximately 10-15 minutes.
- Add in the Balsamic vinegar and stir to blend simmer 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
For less-stress make this in advance. It will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
This is a delicious vegetarian recipe to serve with almost any type of meal. It’s also a delicious recipe to add to any buffet.
Serve Caponata eggplant appetizer cold or at room temperature. Nonna always served caponata cold as an appetizer and sometimes we would have it in a sandwich for lunch.
Serving Suggestions: As an appetizer on garlic toast slices or with crackers. For warm weather entertaining, serve the caponata in a bowl and place it on a platter of ice. It will stay on the buffet table as long as the temps are average and it’s not in direct sun.