Billie F’s Healthier Caponata

This is a recipe I’ve adapted from several different caponata recipes; it’s a traditional Italian eggplant dish that I love to make whenever I see good eggplant on sale…! (It’s also great on pizza!) Typical caponata recipes call for a cup or more of olive oil, but this is much lighter without sacrificing the wonderful flavor. If you prefer, you can cut out even more of the oil by steaming or baking the vegetables before sautéing.

This makes a lot — 5-6 cups — and you can cut everything in half if that’s too much. But, I never have trouble eating it all…! (Keeps in the fridge for at least four or five days… I may never know if it keeps longer than that! :^))

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. eggplant, not peeled but ends removed and sliced into 1/4″ slices
salt
2-3 tbsp. olive oil to start (drizzle in 1-2 tbsp more if necessary while simmering)
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced (3 tsp., or more to taste)
1 to 2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes, not drained
1/2 to 1 tsp. EACH dried oregano, parsley, and basil (more if fresh)
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (optional, but it makes a big difference in taste)
2 tbsp. capers, not drained
Optional other ingredients (used in other caponata recipes): chopped green peppers, chopped pimento-stuffed green olives or black olives, a little sugar, tomato paste
fresh-ground black pepper and salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil (or can use a couple more tsp. dried, but fresh is better)
Pine nuts, toasted and roughly chopped (you can get these inexpensively in Asian food markets; toast them under a broiler or in a dry pan over medium-high heat — but either way, keep an eagle-eye on them, because they burn easily)
Bread or crackers

Layer eggplant slices in a colander, sprinkling each layer liberally with salt. Let drain over a bowl for at least half an hour, preferably an hour or two, until brown liquid leaks out. (This removes any bitterness in the eggplant).

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion (and green pepper, if using) and let simmer, stirring occasionally until it’s soft and brown. Rinse eggplant slices well to remove as much salt as possible, and chop eggplant into cubes. Add chopped eggplant and garlic to onion, stir, and let simmer for 15 minutes; drizzle with more olive oil (or water) if it sticks or looks too dry.

Add diced tomatoes, herbs, vinegar(s), capers, and any other of the optional ingredients. Mix, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until onion and eggplant are very tender, stirring occasionally (20-30 minutes?). Adjust the seasoning, mix in fresh basil, and sprinkle with chopped toasted pine nuts. Serve on chunks of good bread or crackers.

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