Since I shopped this week at the farmers market, we have lots of wonderful local summer vegetables on hand. Yellow and red peppers and rosa bianca eggplants from Mariquita Farm , tomatoes and basil from Dirty Girl Farm...for me that spells caponata di melanzane, the Sicilian summer vegetable stew. Caponata is in the same family of Mediterranean vegetable ragoûts as the Provençal ratatouille or the Spanish pisto, although unlike either of those it does not usually include zucchini. I say usually, because every family in Sicily has their own recipe for caponata. They all feature eggplant in the staring role, but the supporting cast changes, with raisins and pine nuts in some versions, capers and olives in others. My version leans in the latter direction, featuring capers, olives, anchovies and roasted peppers. It can be used as an accompaniment to lamb or fish, to sauce pasta, or on its own on top of polenta. Tonight, I served it topped with a slow-roasted fillet of local halibut (see here for tips on slow-roasting fish) and basil oil.
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 peppers (red or yellow), roasted, peeled and sliced thickly
1 eggplant (approx. 12 oz.), cubed (1 inch)
3 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 t dried oregano or 1 T fresh oregano, marjoram or basil
1 T salt-packed capers, soaked in several changes of water
1/4 c olives, pitted (your favorite--I used arbequinas I brought back from Spain)
3 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
Sweat onions over low heat in 2 T of the oil, adding garlic halfway through, until they're meltingly soft. Add tomatoes and your choice of herbs and cook 10-15 min. longer, until saucy. In a seperate pan, sauté eggplant over high heat in the remaining 1 T oil until caramelized and starting to soften, about 5-10 min. Add eggplant and peppers to tomato mixture and cook until eggplants are tender, but not mushy. Add capers, olives and optional anchovies at last minute.