I picked up a love of a lot of Italian foods when I lived in the North End of Boston, but eggplant was not one of them. I’ve never enjoyed it, and it will probably never be my favorite vegetable. However, I did develop a love of caponata while I lived there. For a time there was a little dot of a restaurant called Macro that brought a small crock of sweet and sour veggies which included eggplant and lots of red bell peppers to the table with the bread. The restaurant called the dish caponata, although I’ve been told by Italians that it was probably closer to a peperonata than a caponata (caponata has eggplant, peperonata has peppers). Whatever it was, I devoured it. I admit that I went back to the restaurant more than once just to get more of of that yummy caponata.
With the restaurant now closed, I had to learn how to make the dish myself. This weekend seemed like as good of a time as any. With eggplant in season and all the other summer veggies that I have too many of, I decided to recreate that wonderful earthy, sweet and sour flavor. I used far more vegetables than a traditional caponata throwing in not only red peppers but zucchini and fennel in addition to the traditional eggplant, onions and tomatoes. Like a traditional caponata, I fry the eggplant (with the peppers) first until evenly brown, then saute the rest of the vegetables on a lower heat until they are soft. I used red wine vinegar, sugar, currants, green olives and capers to form the agrodolce traditional to the dish (an Italian term for a sweet and sour sauce). Finishing the caponata is a simple as adding all the vegetables and the agrodolce together and letting the sauce cook down till it clings to the veggies with all it’s tasty might.
It’s delicious with toasted pine nuts and basil or with a dollop of pesto. While it needs little more than a crust or two of good bread, it would also be wonderful piled on top of grilled fish, stuffed inside chewy baguette with basil and mozzarella, or with a spoon and some good conversation. Enjoy!