Michèle Stone and her husband Harry Howe are great supporters of music in the Bay Area. They are also gastronauts of the highest order. We sampled her version of caponata a few weeks ago and immediately asked for the recipe. They had just returned from a trip to Sicily – somewhere we are dying to visit one day. One lovely thing about this recipe is that the eggplant (aubergine) is baked rather than fried which makes it healthier. As a character in Little Britain said “if it has half the calories, you can have twice as much!”
This Sicilian appetizer can also be served as a salad or picnic fare.
Serve with grilled or toasted country-style bread.
• 2 globe eggplants (about 2 pounds total), cut into ¾-inch cubes
• ¼ cup pine nuts
• ¼ cup olive oil (plus some for brushing on eggplant cubes)
• 1 small fennel bulb, cut into ¾-inch pieces
• 1 medium red onion, cut into ¾-inch pieces
• 2 yellow chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• ¼ teaspoon paprika
• 1 cup canned diced or crushed tomatoes, drained
• ½ cup red wine vinegar
• ¼ cup sweetened dried cranberries
• 1 tablespoon sugar or agave nectar (optional)
• Preheat an oven to 450° F and position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
• Lightly oil a 15 by 10 inch baking sheet.
• Lightly brush eggplant cubes with olive oil and spread on baking sheet.
• Roast in the oven for 8 minutes. Turn the cubes and roast for another 8 minutes, or until softened. Set aside to cool.
• Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
• Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook fennel, onion, chiles, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, 6–8 minutes.
• Stir in paprika and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar or agave nectar (if using). Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
• Add pine nuts, cranberries, and eggplant. Simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Let cool.
• Best made a day or two ahead. Serve with bread.