- Caponata d’estate recipe - Telegraph By Giorgio Locatelli!
Summer caponata, made with aubergines, courgettes, celery, fennel, tomatoes, olives, sultanas and pine nuts, when all the vegetables are at their best, is the most famous, outside Sicily.
Often, some chunks of good bread are added, and then the dish is called 'pane a caponata’.
1 large aubergine
100g whole black olives in brine
50g pine nuts
400g country bread, cut into cubes of about 2cm (optional)
olive oil for frying
1 onion, cut into 2cm dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 2cm dice
1 tbsp tomato passata
1 tbsp caster sugar
5 tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
vegetable oil for deep-frying
half fennel bulb, cut into 2cm dice
1 courgette, cut into 2cm dice
3 fresh plum tomatoes, cut into 2cm dice
a bunch of fresh basil
about 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
Cut the aubergine into 2cm dice, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander for at least two hours.
Squeeze lightly to remove excess liquid.
Drain the olives and pat dry.
Then crush them lightly and take out the stones.
Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
Lay the pine nuts in a single layer on a baking tray and put into the oven for around eight minutes.
As long as they are in a single layer you don’t need to turn them.
Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, and when they are golden, take them out and chop them.
Spread the cubes of bread (if using) on a separate baking tray and toast for five to 10 minutes, until golden.
Set the pine nuts and bread aside.
Heat a little olive oil in a pan.
Add the onion, celery and olives and cook until soft but not coloured, then add the tomato passata.
Mix the sugar and vinegar together in a cup and add to the pan.
Bring to the boil, then take off the heat and transfer the contents of the pan to a big bowl.
Heat about 4cm of vegetable oil in a deep pan, making sure it comes no higher than a third of the way up the pan. (If you have a thermometer, the temperature should be 180C, otherwise, to test if it is hot enough, sprinkle in a little flour or breadcrumbs; if the oil is ready, the flour will fry.)
Add the fennel and deep-fry for one to two minutes, until tender and golden.
Lift out and drain on kitchen paper.
Wait until the oil comes up to the right temperature again, then repeat with the aubergine, followed by the courgette.
Add all the deep-fried vegetables to the bowl containing the onion, celery and olives, together with the diced tomatoes.
Tear the basil leaves and add them to the bowl, along with the sultanas, pine nuts and the extra-virgin olive oil.
Season well, and mix together gently.
Cover the bowl with clingfilm while the vegetables are still warm and leave to infuse for at least two hours at room temperature.
Mix in the toasted bread, if using, and leave to infuse for another 20 minutes before serving.
Don’t put the bowl in the fridge, because it is during the process in which the vegetables steam a little under the clingfilm and then come down in temperature very slowly that 'the savoury merges into the sweet and the sweet into the savoury’.
In every house and in every restaurant you will find a different version and an opinion.
The truth is, it is made with whatever vegetables the people have, depending on the season, but the principle is always the same: the vegetables are fried, each one separately, to retain the integrity of each flavour, then combined in a sweet and sour sauce.