Eggplant Caponata from The Chef Next Door by Amanda Freitag
Eggplant season is in full swing and we can’t get enough! Today we’re sharing a delicious recipe for Eggplant Caponata from The Chef Next Door by Amanda Freitag. Eggplant Caponata is a classic, and preparing eggplant is easier than you’d think. This recipe is perfect for dinner and incorporates fresh eggplant, sweet tomatoes, and salty capers, making for an indulgent and satisfying dish.
Amanda Freitag is a master at knocking out fabulous meals in restaurant kitchens and on the set of Food Network’s Chopped and Iron Chef America. But until recently, she was totally intimidated to cook at home in her tiny apartment kitchen, relating to the fears of many home cooks. She realized she wasn’t alone! The Chef Next Door teaches home cooks a wide range of confidence-instilling skills, tricks, and tips that Amanda has picked up working in professional kitchens and cooking competitively on television. In her bright, lively voice, she helps you master the basic techniques that are the foundation of good, flavorful cooking. She also teaches you how to think like a chef—to consider seasonality, balancing flavors, understanding the steps, and learning how to improvise—to create a menu and execute dishes with pro techniques, as if she were right there in the kitchen with you. Pre-order your copy of The Chef Next Door today before it’s on sale September 29.
When I traveled to Sicily, I must have eaten no fewer than ten versions of eggplant caponata, and I never got sick of it! I also learned about the agrodolce—or sweet and sour—flavor profile that’s so predominant in this dish, and in lots of Sicilian cuisine. My version of caponata is really flexible—serve it with crostini as a make-ahead appetizer, or even as a side dish. The addition of the briny capers, anchovies, and acidic vinegar help cure the eggplant and other veggies, so this dish only gets better in a tightly sealed container in the fridge, where it will last for up to a week.
-2 large Italian eggplants, peeled and cut into medium dice
-2 tablespoons kosher salt
-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
-1 red onion, thinly sliced
-4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
-4 celery stalks, thinly sliced on an angle
-2 anchovies, in oil
-¼ cup tomato paste
-1½ cups red wine vinegar
-¼ cup sugar
-½ cup capers, in brine
Prep: peel and dice the eggplants • peel and slice the onion • peel and slice the garlic • slice the celery
1. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with the salt. Transfer the eggplant to a colander to drain for 2 hours. In order to facilitate the draining, top the eggplant with a heavy weight, such as a dinner plate topped with full cans.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and celery and sauté for 5 minutes more, or until the garlic softens but does not brown. Add the anchovies and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add the tomato paste and stir to thoroughly combine. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the paste turns a deep red, almost brown, and starts to stick to the pan. Add the vinegar and sugar and stir until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat.
4. In another large sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until smoking. Add the eggplant and carefully toss it in the oil, letting it sear before stirring. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the eggplant is translucent and soft.
5. Transfer the eggplant to the caponata mixture and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, until the flavors combine. Add the capers and their brine and stir to incorporate.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature accompanied by toast points or crostini.
* If you find some really beautiful different varieties of eggplant at your local farmers’ market or store, feel free to sub them in. Look for rosa bianco, graffiti, or even white eggplant.
* When preparing eggplant, the “salt and drain” technique is necessary even though it’s a little time-consuming. Without salting, the eggplant will act as a sponge and absorb all the oil, resulting in a very greasy eggplant dish.
* If you hate anchovies, leave them out!
* Feel free to sub in chopped olives and their brine for the capers.