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caponataCaponata is the epitome of summer sunshine. Italian summer sunshine, to be precise. A thick cooked-down mulch of all that is best from the summer garden (or market), this colourful Sicilian vegetable stew is a frequent gracer of the food to glow table during summer months. Or, if we are lucky, as a lap-based lunch while sitting in the garden, fending off marauding hens and lap-loving cats. It’s a hard life we have here *tiny violins playing*…
Unfortunately, as I write, the rain is tap-dancing on the roof. But luckily for me – and you too – this is an adaptable recipe, as delicious warm overtop hot pasta and with a side of stir-fried chard, as it is cool and smoodged onto fire-grilled ciabatta slices, a la bruschetta. I am kind of halfway-house today with a heaped serving spoon (well ladle really – remember, I’m greedy) of caponata nestled up against some fresh bread, the sweet and sour juices soaking up nicely. What you don’t see is the the chunk of aged Parmesan I have been gnawing on for a protein fix.

Caponata is so adaptable that it can be used in almost countless ways: as a tart filling, as the base of an Italian-style fish and seafood stew, over soft steaming polenta, in little puff pastry cups for a retro appetiser, in lasagne, melanzane parmigiana, as a side to simple roast chicken or grilled fish, on pizza or pitta, and stirred into cooked grains along with lentils for a fabulous brown bag lunch. And, I haven’t tried this, but I imagine it would be the delicious basil-spiked centre for gorgeously dinky arancini. Miss R loves arancini so I might just have to save some for this very purpose. UPDATE: It’s made its way onto PIZZA!

For my family I would stoke up the griddle pan but for just me I am happy with a piece of bread from a loaf procured at my post office (!). Just to big up my local post office for a wee sec: it is teeny tiny, only two serving windows’ worth of space, but it also manages to shoehorn in  a gourmet food store. What a community asset it is too. Among the locally produced chocolates, jams, honey, oatcakes and biscuits that clamber on wooden shelves up to the ceiling, Barnton Fine Foods stocks the most delightful bread from Breadshare. This Scottish Borders-based, not-for-profit bread-making cooperative produces truly superlative ‘proper’ bread. My favourite is the olive and pumpkin seed one, but they always run out before I get there these days. So, I have made due with a piece cut from a lovely but somewhat inferior loaf  from Waitrose. Barnton Fine Foods has me spoiled. *cue more violins*

As for the caponata, I have cooked it in stages to keep the celery with some  bite and for the capers to still pop in the mouth rather than wilt into the final dish. But do add it all in at once if you like, the taste will always be terrific. How can it not be with such amazing summer ingredients?

What is your favourite adaptable go-to summer recipe?


Last Year: Kitchen-sink Spring Minestrone with Spring Green Pesto Focaccia

Miss R’s Track of the Week: ‘Hips and Lips’ by Maximo Park

This Sicilian-Arabic compote of vegetables is traditionally served as a starter, but I think it is much more versatile than that: on bruschetta (grilled Italian bread slices, to you and me), on griddled polenta cakes, with pasta, in a jacket potato, as a side with plainly grilled chicken or fish. I’m sure you can think of other uses for this wonderfully sweet sour dish. During the summer months, when aubergines and tomatoes are at their sunny, gorgeous-hued best, we have this once a week in a variety of permutations, sometimes adding in a tin or two of butter beans for protein. If at all possible allow this melange to ‘develop’ overnight. This really is worth the effort and attention.

2 medium sized aubergines/eggplants
800g (1 lb 12 0z) of peeled ripe tomatoes (although I sometimes use 2 tins of best quality – Cirio brand – tomatoes)
500ml (18 oz) passatta (sieved tomato sauce)
3 celery stalks
2 medium red onions
5 garlic cloves
150g (5 ½ oz) of pitted large green olives
3 heaped tbsps capers (if salted soak in water and drain to remove salt)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
3 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
2 tbsps muscovado/dark brown sugar sugar (more to taste)
a handful of basil leaves, shredded 

Cut the aubergines/eggplants into chunks about one inch or two centimetres square. (You may prefer slightly larger or smaller pieces.) Do not peel. Cook these by steaming covered in a large pot until completely cooked but firm. (Don’t boil them.) Drain well and set aside. OR, sometimes I chop them into cubes and toss them in a little olive oil and roast them for 15 minutes at 200C/400F.

Chop the tomatoes into small pieces or a thick pulp, without discarding the juice or seeds. Chop the onions into thin slices and mince the garlic. Cut the celery stalks into pieces about 2 cm inch long. Halve the olives. In a large saucepan, slowly sauté the onions, garlic and celery pieces in the olive oil. The celery should be lightly cooked, firm but not raw. Add the tomatoes and the passata and bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes until the sauce changes colour to a lighter red. At this point, simmer over low heat for another 4-6 minutes. Add the aubergine/eggplants, olives and capers to the mixture. Also add the vinegar, sugar and basil. Stir gently and allow to simmer covered (steaming) for about 30 minutes over a low heat until mixture thickens but doesn’t burn; stir occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before checking and maybe adjusting the flavour (more sugar, vinegar). Then chill for at least three hours before serving at room temperature. Serves 6-8

Need more calories? Add two extra tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil when you add the vinegar and sugar OR drizzle the served the portion with extra virgin olive oil and top with a sprinkle of crumbled feta or goats’ cheese.  

N. B. This is a fairly salty dish because of the olives and capers so perhaps don’t add salt to whatever you are having with it – be kind to your kidneys!

new girl penny up close and personal

where’s that woman with my food!

36 thoughts on “Caponata: So Summery Sicilian Vegetable Stew

  1. Love it Kellie! Your caponata is vibrant and delicious. Similar to my peperonata, which is sans eggplant. Love the chokie too! xo

    1. Thanks darling! How are things with you? Hopefully not too cold & wintry?!

  2. sara says:

    This sounds absolutely delicious and caters perfectly to the current eggplant cravings I’ve been having! I can’t wait to try it as soon as eggplants hit my local farmer’s market.

    1. Thanks Alice. Eggplant is the star here and I would be honoured if you were to start off the season with this recipe.

  3. Well now you’ve got my attention! My 94 year-old mother-in-law taught me how to make capanata – their family calls it capanatina. We love it! By the way, I make THE BEST arancini – taught to me by my mother-in-law!

    1. Urvashi Roe says:

      I would love a good recipe for arancini. Have got rather addicted of late

      1. Well, I am going to be experimenting with a baked – as opposed to the normal fried – arancini this week. I hope it might tempt you Urvashi. Really liked your foraging post!

      2. Urvashi Roe says:

        That would be great. Am not a fan of frying things at home which has put me off experimenting. Sadia at Baking elements had a recipe for baked falafel recently which I keep meaning to try out.

    2. Well, I hope your mother-in-law wouldn’t be too shocked with my upcoming (once I perfect it!) baked arancini recipe! I bet she has a wealth of fabulous recipes and food stories in those 94 years. Is yours a traditional recipe? what kind of filling do you have?

      1. Our recipe is pretty traditional. I had arancini in Florence, Italy and mine was similar to theirs – he had more egginess in the rice, whereas I make it with more tomatoe sauce in the rice. The filling has meatballs, sausage, peas and mozzerella. I can email you the recipe if you’d like. Let me know.

      2. That sounds great Linda, I would like that. I’m interested to know how you cram all of those goodies in! I will email you, okay?

  4. Faith says:

    This dish is absolutely gorgeous! It definitely does look like the epitome of summer’s flavors, all in one divine recipe. I love all the different ways it can be served…mmm, I’m thinking about a bowl of creamy polenta topped with this gorgeous stew! Can’t wait to make it. 🙂

    1. Creamy polenta with herbs in is my favourite if I’m not being lazy with the bread option.

  5. Urvashi Roe says:

    I do love a good caponata. I think my favourite go to summer recipe is hummus. You can make it with so many different things – sweet potato like on the blog but also butterbeans work so well. It’s just proper summer comfort food.

    1. I have a broad bean one that we really like, with za’atar or dukkah for a more med-east vibe. Love hummus and at any time of year and of any description, but I do have difficulty with chickpeas (boo)

  6. Allison says:

    Yum, this looks truly delicious! And thanks for the long list of ideas for ways to eat caponata. I’ll be returning here to try some of them out : )

    1. Thanks Alison 😀 I’m planning on doing a baked arancini recipe using the caponata as a filling. Posting it soon so look out for it. This is one of the most adaptable recipes I can think of. I am glad you appreciate the list

  7. thespicyrd says:

    I am a caponata fan, but I’ve never tried making it before, so yours is definitely the recipe to try! I usually eat mine spread on toasted {GF} bread, but I love the idea of serving it a top grilled polenta-fabulous! Sending a little San Diego sunshine your way 🙂

    1. I’m afraid the San Diego sunshine is slow in getting here although Saturday waterskiing was sunny & warm. Do make the caponata, you won’t regret it. Doing own Spicy RD thing with the basic recipe, of course. PS saw you had a song link!

  8. Love the chickens and this recipe. I’ve never had caponata. I’ve added this to my list of must make recipe on Pinterest. It looks amazing!

    1. Thanks Kristi. I would be so pleased if you did. And thanks for Pinteresting it. I’ve been v slack on pinning. I must follow you!

  9. Oh so summery!!! Was just wondering how to make my packed lunches more interesting and a box of this with a big old hunk of bread seems very very appealing!

    1. I hope that works for you – it’s extremely versatile – add beans, lentils, feta or pecorino cheese for protein and it will be a proper lunch.

  10. The caponata looks delish! I made caponata one time and put some on a baguette with melted mozzarella and ate it as a sandwich. I enjoy reading your blog.

    On another note, I nominated you for the Food Stories Award. You can check out all the info here

    1. I will have a look at the site. Thanks for including me. Very kind of you!

  11. Love the idea of sticking some feta or goats cheese with this Caponata. All it needs now is some sunshine!

    1. Well hopefully today is the day! Gorgeous sunshine in Edinburgh & Glasgow so hopefully the same where you are great day for caponata with goats’ cheese.

  12. Penny looks JUST like my Rita, she is a red hen too! And, you cannot beat a LOVELY caponata, one of my favourite summer stews! Karen

    1. Thanks Miss Karen. All our girls are like Penny. Our Black Rocks were obviously breed for showy looks and giant eggs, and not for longevity 🙁

  13. Aisha says:

    I’ve been looking for a recipe like this all my life! Have you ever been to Strada and had their bruschetta starter? It’s so delicious; I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it’s like caramelised red onious with roasted red pepper and tomatoes or something else. All I know is this looks pretty similar to it so I think I’ve found my love at last. Thank you!

    1. No, I’ve never been to Strada. I think one has just popped up in Edinburgh though. Caponata is a typical bruschetta topping so it is probably one and the same, but mine will be less fatty. We like it as a main meal though:D

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