One of my favorite Italian cooking shows to watch is Lidia’s Italy on PBS. I like taking a recipe and making it my own, of course that’s usually because I can’t find an ingredient or I like something else in the dish. Here’s a modified version of Lidia’s Sicilian Caponata. The ingredients make a huge pot of which you can freeze some for later and make multiple meals or enjoy it by itself on pasta or with rice. I love Caponata on salmon or whatever your favorite fish. It’s great on chicken too.
According to Lidia, Sicilian Caponata is similar to French ratatouille, but the Sicilian way is a bit of sweet and sour.
Lidia says, “Caponata requires a lot of preparation, but once done it keeps well in the refrigerator for up to ten days, and freezes well, so it makes sense to make a big batch. It is a very versatile dish – as an appetizer with some cheese, as a side dish, or as a delicious sandwich stuffer. Actually, it improves if left to steep for a while.”
I definitely agree. This is the original recipe and my modifications noted in parentheses’.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, cut into 3/4 inch chunks (or substitute celery)
2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, seeded, cut into 3/4 chunks (used red and green)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 cup vegetable oil (used much less in fry pan, can also oven bake)
2 small firm eggplants cut into 3/4 inch chunks (I had Japanese eggplants from my garden)
2 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
12 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, cut into strips (used 1 large tomato – remove seeds to reduce liquid)
½ cup drained tiny capers in brine (used 1/4 cup green Spanish stuffed w/pimento olives – mashed)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, fennel or celery, and peppers, season with 1 teaspoon salt, and drop in the bay leaves. Toss a few times to coat the vegetables in the oil, then cover and let sweat over low heat until tender, about 10 minutes.
Heat ½ cup of the vegetable oil in another skillet over medium-high heat. Slide in the eggplants and cook, turning to brown all sides, about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain the eggplants on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Add the remaining ½ cup of oil to the skillet, and repeat with the zucchini, browning on all sides, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove the browned zucchini, and let it drain along with the eggplant.
Meanwhile, bring the vinegar and honey to a boil in a small saucepan, and cook until syrupy and reduced by about half, 2 to 3 minutes.
When the onion, fennel, celery, and peppers are tender, uncover and add the sun-dried tomatoes (or regular tomato & mushrooms). Cook uncovered, to evaporate excess liquid, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Sprinkle in the capers and oregano. Pat the eggplants and zucchini dry, and season with ½ teaspoon salt. Add the eggplants and zucchini to the skillet with the other vegetables, and toss to combine. Drizzle in the reduced vinegar mixture, season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt (or as needed), and toss for a minute or two, just until the vegetables are glazed. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serve on fried Salmon – marinate the salmon pieces in teriyaki sauce with garlic and ginger, roll salmon in McCormick brand – Cajun Seafood Mix (no msg). Fry on skin side for several minutes, flip – fry 30 seconds. Add Caponata mixture onto fried fish; briefly simmer and serve hot.
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