Caponata is Summer in a Bowl

In Sicilian Caponata, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes and olives marry in a hearty dip. It’s delicious spread on toasted bread as an appetizer or spooned over pasta for lunch.

This time of year, I’ll come home from a weekend trip to the farmers market, my bags overflowing with juicy red tomatoes, green zucchini, yellow squash and glossy eggplant. Everything looks so beautiful, I can’t resist.

More often than not, these gorgeous vegetables are tossed with a little olive oil and roasted in the oven until they are caramelized and delicious. With a generous dusting of Parmesan, my oven-roasted ratatouille can be eaten over pasta, alongside grilled chicken or on top of a pizza.

But if you can’t bear to turn on your oven, try this hearty, healthy gluten-free dip from Serena Gastropub owner Guiseppe Cataldo.

In this Sicilian caponata, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes and olives marry in a hearty dip. It’s delicious spread on toasted bread as an appetizer or spooned over quinoa for lunch.

“You can toss it in pasta; you can top a steak with it,” said Cataldo. “Think of it as a whole meal and a condiment at the same time.”

Vegetables are cut in large rustic pieces, tomatoes are crushed by hand, and herbs are torn, not cut. A splash of vinegar ups the acidity of the dish, adding a pleasing tang and enabling the caponata to keep up to three weeks in the refrigerator, says Cataldo.

“It’s one of those dishes you can eat any time of day, even if you’re hungry at three in the morning,” he said. “It’s the perfect superfood.”

Eggplant Caponata

From Guiseppe Cataldo, Serena

Serves 6 to 8

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 yellow onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

5 whole olives, pitted and diced (Cataldo uses a mix of black and green olives)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon sugar

5 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 plum tomatoes, peeled and crushed by hand

1 cup fresh basil, torn into small pieces

½ cup fresh mint, torn into small pieces

1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes

Oil for frying

Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly salt the eggplant and put in a strainer; set aside for 30 minutes. Heat sauté pan over medium heat, add oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook onions and celery until soft and onions are translucent; add garlic and olives. Sauté for 30 seconds, or until garlic gives off a nutty aroma; add the tomato paste. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes; add sugar and vinegar. Cook for 3 more minutes. Place in medium bowl and add tomatoes, basil and mint. Set aside.

Rinse eggplant to remove salt. Heat oil in a large skillet; add eggplant, zucchini and squash and cook until soft. Add eggplant mixture to tomato mixture and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the mixture well with plastic wrap; allow to cool for 30 minutes at room temperature.


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