Caponatina: Stage 4, add pre-cooked eggplant, fresh basil & salt n'pepoer. Let chill... Serve on bread ;-)

This is a family recipe passed to me by my Grandmother (Nonna) before she passed away in '92. My Grandmother's side of the family are from Scilla, Reggio Calabria, Italy. Scilla is a Calabrian village on the 'big-toe' of Italy just across from the Sicilian city of Messina. What I had discovered when visiting Scilla was that the food is HEAVILY influenced by Sicilia (with a lil'Calabrese thrown in); this gave me a greater understanding on how my Grandmother cooked. . :-) She also blended a style of cooking of Naples, which was a tribute to my Grandfather's family with roots there.

Caponatina (Gobble da Dina)
Caponatina is a variant of Caponata, a Sicilian eggplant/olive antipasti. My family and I lovingly call it ''Gobble-da-dina." Whenever I prepare it, memories are conjured up of my Grandmother and my childhood in Canarsie (a small town in Brooklyn, New York). If you we're to ask what was our family's signature dish, I would stand proud and say "Gobble-da-dina!' I was privileged to have been taught this recipe by my Grandmother herself and now I share this recipe with love and respect.

2 lg Eggplants -- cut into 3/4-inch cubes* see note
1-2 cups Celery -- chopped
1-2 cups Red Onions -- chopped
1 jar Olives, Black, Sun-dried 'Calabrian' (slightly bitter) pits removed and roughly cut. (or use Black Kalamata olives - pits removed and diced)
1 jar Olives, Manzanillo
1/4 cup Capers -- rinsed
(optional) 1/2 cup Pine Nuts (Pignoli) – roasted (see below)
1 can San Marzano tomatoes, hand chopped, with sauce
Balsamic Vinegar -- to taste
1/2 -1 cup Basil -- finely chopped (fresh)
1-2 tbsp Sugar
Salt and Pepper -- to taste
Olive Oil

Eggplant (Sicilian Eggplant preferred but not essential)
In a large skillet, bring olive oil up to temperature. Cook eggplant until lightly brown, remove. Add oil only when necessary, eggplant will soak it up. Set the eggplant aside in a bowl.
* hint, when cutting the eggplant place in a large bowl of cold salted-water. This keeps the eggplant from getting brown (oxidation) and helps prevent too much oil from being soaked in during cooking. Rinse and drain prior to frying.

Celery and Onions
Dice celery and onions. The total volume of the chopped and diced celery and onions should equal the volume of cooked eggplant. I usually do about 1 large onion and 4-5 stalks celery.

Olives and Capers
Jarred or canned olives are okay, I usually use 1 jar of Manzanillo (stuffed with peppers), 1 jar of pre diced Kalamata (or black) olives and ½ or ¾ cup of sun-dried (bitter) Calabrian black olives. Remove seeds if needed. Rinse with cold water and drain.

Pine Nuts (optional)
The pine puts can be roasted in the oven... place pine nuts on a small baking tray and bake until golden brown (keep an eye on the process and constantly mix the nuts up to help evenly roast and prevent over roasting.

1. Fry the eggplant with olive oil in a large skillet and set aside. Cook thoroughly but not too soft! Don't over use the olive oil, eggplant has a tendency to soak up the oil, but will release some as it approaches being done.
2. In a deep-dish large skillet or large sauce pan, cook the onions and celery in olive oil. Stir constantly and when the onions are just beginning to show some translucence reduce heat to medium.

Combining Ingredients
Now's the time add the olives and capers followed by the eggplant, mix well and let simmer for about 5-minutes.

Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar; heat until just bubbling then add the chopped basil, sugar, salt and pepper.

Simmer for 5-10 minutes mixing fairly often. Let cool until room temperature, stirring occasionally while adding the optional pine nuts. Store in refrigerator.

Best served cold on Italian bread (panini) as a sandwich.

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Last updated on August 11, 2001