Caponata is originally a cooked vegetable salad, generally with aubergines, in a sweet and sour sauce. Though traditionally served as a side to a fish dish, it has lately become common to be served also as an entree.
For this recipe, I chose to go with the classic ingredient of eggplants, with a personal addition of bell peppers and tomatoes. I have to admit, thinking of the colors in my final dish is what inspired my ingredient selection. You may certainly modify the mix of vegetables to your liking but think in the lines of soft, crunchy, juicy ones. Parsnips, zucchini, cucumbers would work well. Carrots, squash, potatoes. . . I honestly don’t think so. Also look for veggies with a structure similar to that of eggplants so everything cooks evenly.
This dish should taste sweet and sour hence the use of vinegar in the stewing liquid in its classic preparation. I personally don’t like vinegar in mine and rather serve it on the side for guests to adjust according to their taste. A good balsamic vinegar is what I’d recommend for its well-complementing sweetness.
So for the sour part, I’ve chosen to get the acidity from tomatoes and capers instead. Again personal preference, but I think this works better.
Okay, let’s get started. This’ll be quick, believe me. Get the eggplants, bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes into substantial chunks. It’ll be nice to get good bites of them over some crusty bread later. Since they’ll need relatively the same amount of cooking time, cut them into even sizes. You wouldn’t want your bell peppers too mushy by the time your eggplants cook perfectly.
As for the tomatoes, you may wonder why I’ve chosen to go for the canned variety. I always do so whenever a recipe calls for ripe tomatoes. Here’s some trivia for you: due to their delicate structure, tomatoes are harvested prior to ripening fully, to avoid damaging them in transit. Only those intended for canning are allowed to fully ripen on the tree. So generally, canned tomatoes will always be sweeter, on top of the fact that they’ll flavorwise be a more consistent option.
Chopping these vegetables would practically be the only task you’ll have to deal with in this Caponata. Well, cleaning the crockpot too obviously. It’s basically just getting them all in the slow cooker to allow all those fresh, sweet, and sour flavors stew together. What brand of slow cooker to do you use? I love my new shiny chrome crock pot!
Get the vegetables in. Add in some finely chopped garlic for some pungency, and some dried oregano for some aroma. A nice sprinkle of salt would serve not only for flavor, but would help extract more juice out of your vegetables that would end up in a very flavorful sauce.
Add in the olive oil. Don’t be strictly limited by the amount called for in the recipe section. Add more if you wish. It will create a base for all those vegetable juices to come together, and believe me, it’ll be really good to mop with some bread.
Caponata would traditionally be served cold. I honestly don’t see any difference by doing so and do enjoy mine straight out of the pot.