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Boston Globe, March 26, 2008

Makes about 2 cups

Caponata is the sweet, sour, and salty Sicilian eggplant appetizer that looks like a relish and often comes as one of the tastes in an antipasti course. The dish begins with sauteed eggplant cubes, which lend their deep purple color to the mixture, and is cooked briefly with chopped green olives, cherry tomatoes, and golden raisins. The tangy spread also contains vinegar, sugar, raisins, and pine nuts, a combination that reflects the influence of Arab cuisine on the Sicilian table. The classic version we have adapted here from “Treasures of Sicilian Cuisine,” by Paolo Salerno et al., calls for deep-frying the eggplant, but we give it a saute in olive oil, which lends a nice caramelized taste. Celery and capers make the caponata chunky, and the final effect is jewel-like. Spoon it on slices of crusty bread or over fillets of fish before roasting.

5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup green olives with pimento (preferably Sicilian), chopped
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 cup golden raisins
5 tablespoons red- or white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until it is softened but not mushy. Transfer to a bowl.

2. In the same skillet, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When it is hot, cook the celery and onion for 3 minutes.

3. Add the olives, cherry tomatoes, capers, pine nuts, and raisins. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes.

4. Add the vinegar and sugar. Let the mixture come to a boil. Return the eggplant to the pan and add salt and pepper. Turn down the heat and simmer for 3 minutes until the eggplant is cooked through.

5. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool to room temperature.

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