Here is another eggplant dish with summer vegetables. Almost every culture has its version of an eggplant dip or relish: Turkish Baba Ganoush and Moutabal, Indian Baingan Bharta, and Russian Baklazhannaia Ikra (poor man’s caviar). For Sicily, their answer is Caponata.
Sicilian Caponata is a chunky relish made with sauteed eggplant, onion, celery, tomatoes, and bell peppers or other late summer vegetables. It is invigorated with a bright agrodolce (sweet sour) flavour from currants and vinegar, a cooking style typical of the island, and balanced by salty capers and olives.
Traditional Caponata uses a large amount of olive oil to saute the eggplant. This semi raw and low oil version uses whole stove-grilled eggplant, essentially cooking the eggplant in its own skin and imparting a wispy smoky flavour. The other vegetables are soft-cooked in the dehydrator. Onions are sauteed in a bit of olive oil to mellow the pungency and mildly caramelise and draw out their inherent sweetness. A sauce is then prepared from the onions, sundried tomatoes, and half of the dehydrated vegetables. This sauce is used to coat the eggplant, remaining vegetables, olives and raisins.
You can customise your caponata to your tastebuds. An unconventional dash of cacao powder adds a pleasant hint of bitterness to the palate. Like some heat? Toss in some chilli powder. Avoiding nightshades or not a fan of eggplant? Swap the eggplant and bell peppers with zucchini and use a nightshade free tomato sauce (such as carrot based); dehydrate diced zucchini along with the vegetables and you have a higher raw version. Seeking a lower carb option? Omit the currants or use a lower sugar dried fruit like prunes.
Eggplant caponata can be served alone as a side dish, and as a delicious topping on your favourite raw bread, toast, or pizza.
Eggplant Caponata (Semi Raw Vegan)
This semi raw vegan version of Sicilian eggplant caponata combines whole roasted eggplant with mild caramelised onions and soft dried vegetables. It retains the sweet sour punch of agrodolce preparation with more freshness and much less oil.
- 454 g (1 lb / 2 medium) eggplant, slender Asian or Italian varieties (can sub zucchini for raw version)
- 140 g (1 medium) bell pepper, peeled and cut into 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) cubes
- 110 g (2 stalks) celery, trimmed and cut into 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) pieces
- 120 g ripe tomato, concasse
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 80 g (1 small) red onion, small dice
- 15 g (6 pieces) sundried tomatoes, rehydrated in water
- 45 ml (3 tbsp) unpasteurised apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar (not raw)
- 4 g (2 tsp) cacao powder (optional)
- 1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
- 30 g (1/4 cup) currants or raisins (omit for low sugar version)
- 15 g (2 tbsp) green olives (such as Castelvetrano), pitted and halved
- 15 g (2 tbsp) capers in brine, rinsed and drained (can sub more green or black olives)
- To taste Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 30 g (1/4 cup) Italian pine nuts or activated walnuts
- Handful Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Cook the eggplant over the grill or direct flame. Use a pair of tongs to turn the eggplant periodically during cooking until the eggplant is soft on the inside and blackened on the outside. This takes about 10 minutes, depending on the size of your eggplant. Once cooked, wrap the eggplant in a kitchen towel or covered bowl and let it rest until cool enough to handle. This helps soften the eggplant skin and so it will be easy to peel off. Dice the eggplant to 2 cm (1 inch) cubes and set aside in a bowl.
Prepare the vegetables in equal size. Cut the bell pepper and celery to 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) pieces. Prepare the tomato concasse: peel the tomatoes and dice to 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) pieces. Spread the vegetables on a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate at 46°C (115°F) for 45 minutes, or until slightly soft.
Saute the onion until it is mildly caramelised. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottom saucepan. Add the onion and saute for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Remove from heat.
In a blender, combine the sauteed onion, half of the dehydrated vegetables, rehydrated sundried tomato, vinegar, and cacao and chilli powder if using. Blend on high speed until smooth. If you like, you can pass the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer to obtain a very smooth sauce.
Prepare the caponata. In a large bowl, combine the diced eggplant, currants, olives, and capers. Stir in the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. It should be slightly sweet, salty and sharp from the vinegar. (I like a bit of spice from chilli.) Adjust the seasonings and when you are satisfied with the taste, transfer the caponata into an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Serve caponata at room temperature as a side dish or topping on your favourite bread, toast, or pizza. Garnish with pine nuts and fresh parsley just before serving.