Don’t let the prep work and many ingredients listed here turn you into a non-believer of Caponata, which is a very versatile Sicilian vegetable relish.

Use as an appetizer with water crackers, top a boring skinless boneless chicken breast with Caponata and it is no longer “boring”.  It is a delicious addition or topping on an omelette and on a whitefish such as swordfish, mahi-mahi or cod–the possibilities are almost endless! It does come together on the stove top rather quickly once your prep is completed.

This version will serve about 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a vegetable side or topping on your favorite protein. Note:  Recipe doubles nicely.

1/4 C of Olive Oil
1 Cup of diced (1/4 in. dice) Celery, strings removed
1 Cup of diced (1/4 in. dice) yellow Onion
1 medium Green or Red Bell Pepper, cleaned, cored, and diced, (1/4 in.)
1 medium Eggplant, washed, peeled and cut into 1/2 in. cubes
1/4 Cup of medium sized Black pitted Olives, drained and sliced thin
1/4 Cup of medium sized pimento stuffed Green Olives
3 Teaspoons Capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 Cup of Tomato Paste
1 Tablespoon of Water
1/8 Cup of Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon of Sugar (or Balsamic Vinegar)
1 Tablespoon dried Basil (fresh if you have)
1/2 Teaspoon of Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper or (Red Pepper flakes to taste)

In a Dutch Oven or large heavy Sauce pan (with a lid), heat the Olive Oil over medium heat until shimmery and add the Celery. Using wooden spoon stir often for about 3 minutes, then add Onion. Stir the Onion until soft, for about another 3 minutes. Stir in the Peppers and cook for another 4 minutes. Stir in the Eggplant and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Olives and Capers with your wooden spoon.

In a small non-reactive bowl, mix Tomato Paste, Water, Vinegar and Sugar together and pour over the Eggplant/Vegetable mixture. Add the Basil and mix gently. Return to a low heat and partially cover the pan. Stir frequently and cook over the low heat for another 10-15 minutes. Taste, and adjust Salt and Pepper(s) to your liking.

Caponata may be served warm, hot or room temperature. Easy to store in glass jars in the fridge, no longer than 2 – 3 days. It may also be frozen and unthawed for about 4 hours when you do decide you need that garden fresh taste this winter.

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