Often described as Sicilian eggplant dish, caponata is really a sweet-sour mixed vegetable dish seasoned with vinegar in which raisins have been soaked. Pine nuts traditionally go into caponata. But it’s a headache finding pine nuts in my part of the world. Pistachio, on the other hand, is not only my husband’s favorite nut, it has also become accessible lately.
- ¼ cup golden raisins
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup pistachio nuts
- ¼ cup olive oil doesn’t have to be extra virgin
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 rib celery cut into ¼-inch thick slices
- 1 generous pinch dried oregano
- 2 to 3 eggplants diced
- 2 to 3 bell peppers deseeded and diced
- 3 to 4 tomatoes diced
- basil leaves thinly sliced
- Place the raisins in a bowl and pour in the red wine vinegar. Set aside.
- In an oil-free pan, toast the pistachio until lightly browned and aromatic. Set aside to cool.
- Set a wide frying pan on the stove over medium-low heat and heat the olive oil.
- Spread the diced onion on the bottom of the pan and cook without disturbing for a few minutes. Stir. Add the garlic and oregano. Continue cooking with occasional stirring until the edges of the onion bits start to brown.
- Throw in the sliced celery. Sprinkle in salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for a minute.
- Add the diced eggplants. Sprinkle in more salt and pepper. Stir. Cover the pan and cook for about five minutes.
- Next, add the bell peppers and tomatoes. Sprinkle in salt and pepper once more. Stir. Cover the pan again and cook for five minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Pour in the red wine vinegar with the raisins. Stir. Taste. If the flavors seem unbalanced, the dish might benefit from more salt and pepper.
- Add the pistachio and stir.
- Cover the pan loosely (a vent will prevent the vegetables from continuing to cook in the residual heat) and allow the flavors of the caponata to develop for about 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle sliced basil over the caponata and serve.
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For vegetarians, a generous serving of caponata makes a great main course. Crusty bread makes a good accompaniment.
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