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''Gobble-da-dina" has become a joyful celebration to me. Whenever I prepare this dish memories are conjured up of my childhood in Canarsie (A small town in Brooklyn, New York).

2 lg Eggplant -- cut into 3/4-inch cubes* see note
1-2 cup Celery -- chopped
1-2 cup Onions -- chopped
1/4 cup Garlic -- crushed and finely chopped
1 can Olives, Black, Canned
1 can Olives, Manzanillo, Canned
1/4 cup Capers -- rinsed
1/2 cup Pine Nuts, Pignolia -- roasted
8-16 oz Tomato Sauce
Balsamic Vinigar -- to taste
1/2 -1 cup Basil -- finely chopped (fresh)
1-2 tbsp Sugar
Salt and Pepper -- to taste
Olive Oil

1. Eggplant
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.

2. Pine Nuts
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 contantly mix the nuts up to help evenly roast and prevent over roasting.

3. Celery and Onions
The total volume of the chopped and diced celery and onions should equal the volume of diced eggplant.

In a deep-dish large skillet or large sauce pan, heat olive enough to cook the onions, oelery and Garlic. Stir constantly and when the Onions are just beginning to show some translucence reduce heat to medium.

4. Combining Ingredients
Now's the time to add the cooked eggplant, pine nuts, and olives, mix well and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar and capers, 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.

Store in refrigerator.
Best served cold on Italian Bread (panini) as a sandwich.

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1. Basic Caponata

1 can tomato sauce
2 eggplants, cubed
2 medium onions, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 large jar pitted green olives (crushed)
1 small bottle capers
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar

Sauté onions and celery in oil. When translucent, add eggplants and onions. In 20 minutes, add tomato sauce and capers. Add vinegar and sugar. Cook on low to medium flame for about 1 hour, stirring frequently. Add water. If mixture gets too thick. Let cool. Place in jars. Has a long shelf-life in the refrigerator.

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2. Caponata Bowl

2 large, well-shaped eggplants
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 cups sweet onion, sliced fine
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 large, juicy tomatoes, peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh italian parsley, chopped fine
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup pitted calamata or gaeta olives

Slice the top quarter of one of the eggplants lengthwise. Hollow it out, leaving the eggplant whole and in good condition, with skin intact.

Cut the eggplant meat into cubes, place in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let drain for an hour.

Meanwhile, place the other eggplant over a direct flame, on top of the stove, turning it from side to side until the skin is equally blackened and it is soft inside, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Pat the eggplant cubes dry with paper towels. Sauté them in olive oil over medium heat with the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add bell peppers and sauté another five minutes. Add scooped-out flesh of burnt eggplant along with the tomatoes, salt, ground pepper and remaining spices, and cook over medium flame until flavors are thoroughly blended. Sprinkle with lemon juice and parsley.

Taste and adjust flavor by adding more salt, olive oil or lemon juice. Place eggplant mixture into the intact eggplant. Garnish with olives.

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3. Caponata

1/2 cup olive oil
3 cups diced eggplant (3/8 inch dice) about 1 medium
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 cup celery in 1/4 inch slices
2 cups chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup wine vinegar
24 small stuffed green olives, sliced into thirds
1/2 cup small capers, drained
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup lightly packed minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil Add the eggplant and sauté several minutes untilpartially soft. Add the onions, celery, tomatoes, and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, add the remaining ingredients and toss lightly. Chill until ready to serve.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serving suggestions: As an appetizer, serve on a bed of greens accompanied by black bread or crisp pita toasts As an hors d'oevre, pass with toasted Italian bread slices or pita triangles. Try as an omelet filling; as an accompaniment to cold roast meats; tossed with pasta for a cold salad; or even mounded hot on black bread, topped with mozzarella, and broiled for a quick snack.

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4. Caponata

6 cups eggplant, 1/4 inch dice
1 large onion, diced finely
4 stalks celery, diced finely
4 tablespoons drained capers
olive oil salt to taste
1 can tomato paste, (6 ounces) enough water to fill can from tomato paste 4 times
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1) Sauté onion and celery in a few tablespoons of oil until vegetables are softened and the onion is caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove from skillet.

2) Fry eggplant in skillet until softened, if desired sauté for a few minutes and then add a little water and cover to steam.

3) Dissolve the tomato paste in enough water to fill its can 4 times.

4) Add the all ingredients back to the skillet. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for about a half hour, checking frequently and adding water if it looks dry.
Serve at room temperature or cold with crusty italian bread or whole grain crackers.

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5. Caponata on Lettuce

1 eggplant, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
8 ounces tomato sauce
3 tablespoons rinsed capers
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 lettuce leaves
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Peel eggplant and cut into slices 1/2 inch thick. Cut slices into cubes measuring 1/2 inch.

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil and sauté eggplant until soft. Remove eggplant and set aside.

Add peanut oil to the pan and add garlic, onion, celery and bell pepper. Sauté until tender. Add tomato sauce, and reduce heat. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Add eggplant, capers, vinegar and pepper. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often to keep from sticking.
Chill and serve on salad greens or with slices of Italian bread.

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6. Caponata w/Ancho Chilies

1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
2 ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup cracked provencal green olives, pitted and chop
1/2 cup tomato puree
3 small juice tomatoes, finely diced
1 small bunch fresh cilantro (leaves only), chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roast the anchos on a rack in the oven until you can smell them, 1-2 minutes, then soften by soaking them in hot water for about 15 minutes. (Save water if you like to add to gravy, stew, soup or vegetable sauce in place of plain water)

Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and let it sit in a colander for 30 minutes to draw out the moisture.

Heat oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant and stir to brown completely. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Remove the chilies from the water. Dice them, and add them to the egg plant. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 15 minutes or until the flavors have married.

Adjust the salt and heat level to your liking.

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7. Caponata Grossa

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 large eggplant stem removed and cut into
3/4-inch cubes
1 cup raw zucchini, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
14-1/2 ounces premium diced tomatoes in puree
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup capers
2 tablespoons caper juice
1/4 cup marinated black olives (recipe follows)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt, to taste
Marinated Black Olives
1 pound black greek olives
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 slice lemon

The Olives:
Mix all ingredients and refrigerate in a large jar for up to several months. Serve at room temperature.

The Caponata:
In a 3-quart saucepan over low heat, cook the onion in oil until it is translucent (about 6 - 8 minutes). Add carrot and eggplant, and steam, covered, for 6 - 8 minutes. Add zucchini, garlic, and herbs, and simmer uncovered for 10 more minutes, tossing to blend flavors. Add tomatoes and wine, and simmer until all the vegetables are completely cooked (10 - 15 minutes). Add the other ingredients, mixing thoroughly, and simmer for 15 - 20 more minutes to blend flavors and thicken the stew.

Transfer to a nonreactive bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let it cool to room temperature. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. It should be flavorful, slightly tart, and have just a tiny bite from the red pepper. Refrigerate, tightly covered, until ready to serve. It will last a week refrigerated if there is very little air between the sauce and its lid.

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8. Caponata and Raisins

2 medium eggplants
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 onions, sliced
1 cup diced celery
3/4 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons capers
4 tablespoons raisins or currants, plumped in hot water
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and prick with a fork. Bake until tender but not mushy, about 35-45 minutes. When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, remove the peel and dice the flesh into one inch cubes. Place the cubes in a strainer or drainer.
In a large sauté pan over moderate heat, bring the stock to a boil.

Add the onions and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, vinegar, and sugar, and simmer a few minutes. Stir in the reserved eggplant, capers, and raisins and warm through. Adjust the seasoning
with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

This can be made a few days ahead of time. Bring to room temperature for serving, check seasoning, and add vinegar and salt if desired.

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9. Caponata with Fennel Stalks

2 medium eggplant (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion
1 stalk fennel or celery, chopped
1 pound chopped plum tomatoes, or diced canned tomatoes
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
3 tablespoons wine vinegar or part balsamic
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios
1/4 cup minced fresh basil and additional basil leaves for garnish
crackers, sliced baguettes, or lettuce leaves

Cut the eggplant into 1-inch chunks, salt it lightly and let drain in a colander for half an hour; rinse and pat dry. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and eggplant until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the fennel, tomatoes, capers, and vinegar, and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the fennel is still slightly crunchy. Chill several hours. Garnish with nuts and basil. Serve with crackers, baguettes, or on lettuce leaves as a salad.

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10. Caponata with Raisins #2

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut in 3/4-inch dice
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup olive oil
3 very ripe plum tomatoes, pureed
1/2 cup mixed brine-cured sicilian green and black olives, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley

Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt; let drain, stirring occasionally, for one hour.

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, pine nuts, and raisins. Season with pepper and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Let stand, covered.

Rinse the eggplant to remove the salt and dry on a kitchen towel. Heat the remaining olive oil in another large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant in batches and cook, stirring, for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through but still firm. Season the eggplant with salt and pepper, remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Add the celery to the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened.

Add the celery and eggplant to the tomato mixture and cook over moderate heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and sugar and cook for another 10 minutes to evaporate the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley and bring to room temperature. Should be served at room temperature as part of an antipasto.

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11. Caponata with Mushrooms & Peppers

1 medium eggplant, unpeeled, finely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup (or less) olive oil
1/2 cup chopped stuffed green olives
1/4 cup chopped ripe olives
1/4 cup drained capers
3 tablespoons pine nuts
6 ounces tomato paste
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano

In large enamel saucepan combine eggplant, onion, mushrooms, green pepper, garlic and oil. Simmer covered 10 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients; mix well and simmer covered 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Eggplant should be cooked but not overly soft.
Refrigerate overnight (may be frozen).
Serve at room temperature with crackers or cocktail pumpernickel.

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12. Caponata and Red Peppers

2 pounds eggplant (about 2 large)
1 pound yellow onions (about 3 medium)
1 large red bell pepper
5 or 6 stalks of celery with leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 28-ounce tin tomatoes in juice
about 10 kalamata-style black olives, pitted
about 5 large green olives, pitted
2 tablespoons capers rinsed
a handful of fresh italian parsley, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white (or brown) sugar
salt and black pepper to taste

Wash, dry, and trim the stem end from the eggplant. Cut it, skin included, into half-inch dice, place in a colander, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of fine sea salt, spreading this through the eggplant pieces with the hands. Set over a large bowl and let rest for at least one-half hour and preferably up to two. Then discard the collected liquid and dump the eggplant cubes in a sink full of cold water. Swirl them around to rinse them well and lift them out, handful by handful, squeezing them hard. Put them back into the colander, into which you have already spread an expendable dish towel. When all the eggplant pieces are in the towel, gather its ends together and twist it progressively tighter and tighter, forcing as much liquid out of the eggplant as possible. Put the cubes in a large bowl.

Peel and coarsely chop the onion. Core, seed, and coarsely chop the red pepper. Cut the celery into bite-sized pieces. Pour the olive oil into a large pot and heat over a low flame until the oil begins to ripple. Stir in the crushed hot red pepper and then the celery. Cook this, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, then add the onion, garlic, and the red bell pepper pieces. Cook these, still stirring, for another five minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the eggplant. Sauté this mixture for twenty minutes. At this point, taste the eggplant. The flesh should be soft and tender. If not, continue cooking another five minutes and taste again.

Add the tomatoes with their liquid, dividing them into chunks with a heat-proof rubber spatula. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 10 minutes, while you cut the pitted black and green olives into small bits and rinse and chop the capers. Add these, stir in well, and cover again, continuing the simmering until the eggplant skin is tender, about 15 more minutes. Taste the caponata for doneness: the vegetables should all be soft but retain some texture; the liquid should be syrupy. Stir in the minced parsley, the vinegar, and the sugar. Cook just long enough to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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13. Caponata and Pine Nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 stalks celery, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup pitted green olives
3 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup italian parsley, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts

Sauté the first four ingredients over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes, and set aside. Sauté the eggplant with the olive oil and salt for about five minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. Add the onion mixture back into the pan with the eggplant, along with the vinegar, sugar, onions and capers. Cover and simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Cool and add parsley and pine nuts.

To serve, let caponata cool to room temperature and spread on toasted bread or pita triangles, or toss with cooked pasta for a quick dinner.

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14. Caponata with Tomatoes, Onions and Ricotta

1 medium eggplant, cut in quarters and sliced thinly
1 can stewed tomatoes, 16 ounces, chopped, do not drain
1 can tomato sauce, 8 ounces
1 whole onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon sugar
pepper, to taste
1 pint ricotta cheese, part skim milk
1 whole egg
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon basil leaves
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1) In a Dutch oven casserole, simmer together first 9 ingredients for 30 minutes, or until
eggplant is soft. Meanwhile, beat together the ricotta, egg, parmesan and sweet basil until blended.

2) In a 9x13 inch baking pan, spread 1/2 the eggplant mixture. Top with ricotta mixture, and then remaining eggplant mixture. Sprinkle top with grated mozzarella and 1 tablespoon grated parmesan.

3) Bake in 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until heated through. Cut into squares to serve.

NOTES : Serves 8 as a small entree or 6 for dinner. Can be baked earlier in day and heated at serving time.

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15. Caponata

4 eggplant (cubed)
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
4 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 cups olive oil (extra virgin is best)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 pint pimento stuffed green olives
1 pint sliced black olives
1 small jar (4 ounces) small capers
dry oregano, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cans (28 ounces) whole italian plum tomatoes or 2 pomi tomato chunks

Sauté onion, garlic and celery in 1/2 of the olive oil until soft. Add 1/2 of the cubed eggplant and 1/2 tomatoes and cook until all is soft, all balsamic vinegar and pour all into large dish.
Put the rest of olive oil in saucepan and add the rest of the eggplant tomatoes, and vinegar. Cook until soft and done. Pour into large dish with first batch and add olives, capers and spices to taste. Allow to marinate.
Best when served at room temperature with bread or crackers.
Can keep 7 to 10 days in refrigerator.

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Last updated on August 11, 2001