Eggplant Caponata is a sweet, salty and vinegary mixture of eggplant, onion, celery, capers and olives. It's chunky and silky and pairs well with fresh ricotta on top of crunchy French or Italian bread or even fat bread sticks. It can be served cold, warm or hot. You can find many variations of caponata, but this is how my family makes it with the addition of pine nuts for some crunch. —Dorie Colangelo
pitted green olives, sliced lengthwise in half
pine nuts (optional)
red pepper flakes
whole peeled tomatoes (from a 14-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes)
red wine vinegar
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium/high heat. Add the celery, onion and a small pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the celery and onions are completely soft and caramelized. Transfer it all with a slotted spoon to a heat-safe bowl and set aside.
Return the saute pan to the stove. Add the eggplant to the saute pan and sprinkle it with a small pinch of salt. Do not stir the eggplant until the bottom layer browns slightly. Then stir and let the eggplant soften and caramelize all over. Transfer the eggplant to the same bowl as the onion and celery.
Return the saute pan to the stove again, adding the olives, pine nuts, capers, red pepper flakes and tomato paste. Saute for a few minutes until pine nuts are golden brown and aromas from the olives and capers are released. Immediately add in the tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. Stir, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden or slotted spoon and let simmer for a couple of minutes.
Pour the contents of the saute pan into the bowl with the onions, celery and eggplant. Mix all the ingredients well, let cool slightly and serve with toasted slices of baguette with or without fresh ricotta cheese.