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Heather's caponata

Time Active work time: 45 minutes Total preparation time: 1 hour
Yields Serves 12
Heather's caponata
(Los Angeles Times)
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Caponata is a flavorful, sweet-sour Sicilian cooked salad composed of eggplant, onions, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, olive oil and vinegar. It’s subject to as many variations as there are cooks who prepare it. Typically served as an antipasto, salad side dish or condiment relish, caponata is often made with olives, anchovies and capers, depending on the menu.

This version by my assistant Heather Behm--which includes zucchini and pine nuts--works well with simple roasted or grilled meats. It’s perfect as an omelet filling. Add anchovies, fresh basil and Parmesan for a pasta topping. Try it with olives and fresh basil in lasagna or as a simple casserole, sprinkled with mozzarella cheese, baked until browned and sizzling hot. Turn it into a dip, coarsely chopped in the food processor, served chilled with tortilla chips. With the addition of capers, it also makes a tasty garnish for grilled fish, poultry and veal.

Here’s an idea, too, for a one-dish, spicy shrimp meal.

1

Place the eggplant in a colander. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let rest for 30 minutes. Rinse well with cold water, shaking the colander to remove as much water as possible.

2

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.

3

Add the rinsed eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, thyme, 1 tablespoon of salt, the basil and oregano. Cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juice, vinegar and honey. Stir well. Simmer, uncovered, until the eggplant is just tender but keeps its shape and is not soft or mushy, about 5 to 7 minutes more. Taste; season to taste with pepper and salt. Stir in the pine nuts, if using.

This can be made up to four days ahead and refrigerated. Before serving, stir well and adjust the seasoning.