Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Make Your Own Italian Eggplant Caponata
Still Looking For Progresso Caponata?

Eggplant Caponata makes a great appetizer.

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Childhood Memories
Pretty much every holiday dinner in my family started with an antipasto. Occasionally, part of the antipasto was eggplant caponata. Even though my family made most things from scratch, the eggplant caponata was made by Progresso. 

Most prepared foods that come in cans is terrible. But I will tell you, those tiny little cans of Progresso Eggplant Caponata were wonderful, but unfortunately they are no longer available.

I hadn't eaten caponata for years. But last year, my girlfriend Margarite made a huge jar  for me. It immediately brought back childhood memories of this tasty dish. I devoured the entire jar and immediately planted eggplant in my garden.

My sister-in-law Dianne has fond memories of her aunt Vera's caponata and recently shared that recipe with me. There are things I like from Margarite's recipe and things I like from aunt Vera's. So I made a trial batch using the best of both recipes and it came out great!

Eggplant from my garden

Too Much Oil
The only unhealthy thing about caponata is the copious amounts of olive oil used in most recipes. Aunt Vera's recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups and Margarite's uses 1 cup. My brother Peter gave me a tip about microwaving the eggplant before frying that significantly reduces the amount of oil needed. Although I rarely use a microwave for anything other than heating up leftovers, I think this trick works very well and it allows me to reduce the amount of oil to less than 1/2 a cup. That still sounds like a lot but this recipe fills a 1 liter jar, lasts for a very long time in the refrigerator, and is used sparingly on crackers or baguette slices.

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Eggplant Caponata Appetizer
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[Fills a 1 liter jar]

2 large or 3 medium eggplants
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups diced onion
4 stalks celery, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced (~1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped pimento stuffed green olives
1/2 cup drained capers 
1 tablespoon pine nuts or walnuts, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce 
1/4 cup water or as needed
1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Peel the eggplants, leaving on some of the peel. Cut into 1-inch cubes and place, in a single layer, on a microwavable plate covered with two layers of paper towels (you will have to do this in two batches.) Cover with a single layer of paper towels and cook in the microwave on high for 7 minutes. 

Microwave for 7 minutes

Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large enamel coated, non-stick skillet. Sauté the eggplant on moderate heat, turning occasionally, until tender and browned on all sides. Remove the eggplant from the skillet and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper and cook on moderate heat until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. 

Add garlic, olives, capers, nuts, salt, pepper and sugar and cook, stirring, for several minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce and vinegar.

Stir in the cooked eggplant and cook, covered, until tender. Add a 1/4 cup or more of water if needed.

When the eggplant is tender, remove the cover and cook a few minutes until the water is completely evaporated. Stir in 1 more tablespoon of olive oil, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and let the caponata sit in the pan for several hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Place in a 1-liter, air-tight jar and refrigerate until needed. 

Caponata will last for weeks in the refrigerator.

Serve at room temperature on gluten-free crackers or baguette slices. 


Unknown said...

This looks like a great recipe, I can't wait to try it! Could I use a pressure cooker instead of a microwave to pre-cook the eggplant?

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

I want to try that too, I'm just afraid that it will make the eggplant a bit soggy. But if you use the steamer basket and don't sit the eggplant directly in the water, it might be ok. I wouldn't do it for more than a minute.
Good luck!

Marcia said...

My favorite caponata recipe is from Lorna Sass Complete Vegetarian Kitchen. It's a pressure cooker recipe and it's divine! Very little oil.

I am the only one in my family who likes it, so I end up freezing some for later.

BobbyPA said...

This doesn't look like Progesso's recipe - it's more like Ina Garten's. Progresso's had a thick sauce almost like tomato paste.