Caponata or Eggplant caponata is a Sicilian eggplant or aubergine dish made with chopped eggplants in a sweet and sour sauce.Usually the ingredients are capers,tomatoes and vinegar and several variations of this dish exist.The dish is usually served as a salad or appetizer or side as per choice.I had bookmarked Mario Batali's caponata version from Food Network.The intriguing feature of this version is the use of currant and unsweetened cocoa and no capers!. I have never used/heard of cocoa in this and so I decided to give it a try and the result was excellent.
Eggplant: 1 cup chopped into small pieces
Olive oil : 1-2 tbsp +
Onion: diced into squares:1 medium
Pinenuts: 2 tbsp
Currants: 2 tbsp
Chilli flakes: as per taste
Sugar: 1/4 tsp
Cinnamon powder: 1/2 tsp
Unsweetened cocoa: 1/2 tsp
Dried Thyme: 1/2 tsp or Fresh thyme: 2 tsp
Balsamic Vinegar: 5-8 tsp as per taste
Prepared Tomato Sauce: 2-4 tbsp
Salt & Pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil: 1-2tbsp
Onion: 1 small diced
Garlic: 1 clove
Carrot grated: 1 small or 1/4 cup grated
Thyme: 1/2 tsp + as taste or use Fresh thyme
Tomatoes:2 big blanched and peeled and crushed/chopped into small pieces along with their juices.
Tomato Sauce: Heat olive oil in a deep pan.Add diced onion and garlic and cook till it browns for about 6-8 minutes or more.Add thyme and carrot and saute till the carrot starts to cook.Add in tomatoes along with their juices and bring to a boil.Reduce to a simmer and cook till it reaches the sauce consistency. Add salt and reserve.This can be prepared early and stored in the refrigerator.
Chop the eggplants into small pieces.Add salt and mix well and let them drain for atleast 15 minutes.This is supposed to remove their bitterness but it is optional.I followed this step though it is not in the original recipe.Also dice the onions.
Heat olive oil in a pan and add diced onion,pine nuts,currants and chilli flakes and saute till softened.Add squeezed/drained eggplant pieces,sugar ,cinnamon and cocoa and saute till the eggplant softens and starts to cook.Add thyme,tomato sauce and balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil.Reduce to simmer and let it cook for 5 more minutes.Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.Serve as an appetizer on top of crostini or as a side dish.
The dish was a perfect blend of sweet and tangy and hot (I added more chilli flakes as per taste) and was an explosion of flavours.I suppose the cocoa and currants bring in a sharp tanginess and thay may be the reason he must have used them.Do refer the original recipe for correct estimates as I have increased some per taste.