I recently had this delicious Sicilian dish with my Mother - we had escaped to Naples, FL for a relaxing girl's weekend. One evening we went to a popular Italian restaurant and ordered a few things to split, one of which was Caponata. It was so good we ordered it a second time. This eggplant dish is traditionally served as an antipasto over toasted bread. However, it is just as wonderful as a side dish or as a relish to go alongside fish or meat. In my version below, I add toasted pine nuts to add a delicious nutty flavor. Instead of sugar, substitute splenda or truvia (whatever your preference is). Caponata has a perfect balance of sweet and salty and is best the second day when served cold.
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomato with juices (no sugar or salt added)
4 tablespoons of raisins
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons of splenda or stevia (or whatever your preference is for a sugar substitute)
3/4 cup of chopped pitted green Italian olives
1 tablespoon of capers
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh chopped basil leaves to garnish on top (around 2 handfuls)
Serves up to 6 side-dish portions
Start off toasting the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium to low heat. Using a spatula, flip the nuts around frequently so they do not burn or stick to skillet. When the nuts are fragrant and brown, take them off of the heat and transfer to a bowl and set aside. In a large deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the celery and cook for 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook until it begins to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and and saute until it becomes translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes (along with the juices), the raisins, green olives and capers. While stirring frequently, simmer over medium to low heat until the flavors permeate and the mixture thickens (around 20 minutes). Stir in the vinegar, splenda, salt and pepper (may need to add more salt depending on preference). Stir in the toasted pine nuts. Transfer to a medium size serving bowl and top with the chopped fresh basil.
* Side note: As mentioned above, this dish is best when refrigerated overnight and served cold.