Sicilian Eggplant Caponata

This is an unapologetically Gusti Caponata, a twist on the classic Sicilian version. We opted for Saba and Sirk grape vinegar to create its typical agrodolce flavor. Then, we used real Castelvetrano olives, already pitted and preserved in Sicilian EVOO infused with a blend of Mediterranean herbs. These olives will truly set your Caponata apart!

Ingredients

SERVES: 4-6 people
TIME: 2 hours

Eggplants, 2 1/4 lbs/1 kg
Coarse sea salt 
Red onions, 2 medium (about 400 g/14 oz)
Caponata olives, about 30 olives + 3 Tbsp of their EVOO
Celery heart, 2 oz/50 g
Salted capers, 2 Tbsp/50 g
Pine nuts, 3 Tbsp/50 g
San Marzano Tomatoes, a 400g can
Pianogrillo EVOO, 2 cups
Sirk Vinegar, 1 Tbsp
Saba, 3 Tbsp
Basil leaves, 10

Preparation

  1. Cut the eggplant into 1/2 cubes, place them in a colander and cover them with Trapani sea salt. Leave to rest for 40 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, finely dice the onions and sauté them in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil from the jar of Caponata olives. 
  3. Cut the celery into small cubes.
  4. Rinse the capers and pat them dry.
  5. Add the celery, capers, olives, and pine nuts to the onions. Sauté on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Pour in the San Marzano tomatoes, stir and simmer for another 10 minutes, until the sauce is sufficiently reduced, then turn off the heat and set aside while you get on with the eggplant. 
  7. Heat the 2 cups of Pianogrillo EVOO in a deep-sided cast iron pan until a breadcrumb immediately sizzles when dropped in. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly, squeezing the cubes gently to remove excess liquid. Dry well with paper towels. Working in batches, deep fry the eggplant for 5-6 minutes until golden, letting them drain on paper towels. 
  8. Bring the other vegetables back to temperature over medium heat and stir the fried eggplant. Add the Sirk vinegar and Saba, and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes. Adjust with salt if necessary, then stir in the basil leaves. 
  9. Turn off the heat and leave your Caponata cool. Serve at room temperature or, if you can resist, wait until the next day. It’ll taste even better!