This is one of those dishes, a traditional Caponata, that comes alive the moment the ingredients hit the pan. The scent wafting through my kitchen has everyone feeling hungry. The garlic and tomatoes with the red wine vinegar smell delicious but when the capers and olives are added a whole new element develops in this dish. Also by frying the egg plant prior to adding it to the pot the process sweetens the egg plant and removes any bitterness and brings a creaminess to the mixture. All combined, this is not your basic pasta sauce. It is a symphony of fresh vegetables, acidity, salt, herbs and layers of flavor balanced perfectly.
All these little bits of flavor are the base of this delicious dish.
This in and of itself could be the end of the story. It’s wonderful on fish, chicken, pasta, rice or on a spoon directly out of the pot. Today however, we’re making a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough with Prosciutto, sliced provolone, pesto, and caponata.
Yes, it’s amazing!!
- 2 medium sized egg plant, cut into large chunks
- 2 zucchini, chopped
- 1 large yellow pepper, chopped
- 2 tbsp capers, drained
- 1 dozen olives, pitted
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 14 oz can chopped tomato
- 1 14 oz can tomato puree
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- handful of basil leaves chopped
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- chopped parsley, to garnish
Note: Traditional Caponata calls for two stalks of finely chopped celery to be added with the onion. My family prefers to leave this out.
- Lightly season eggplants with salt, set aside.
- In a large pan heat olive oil then pan fry egg plants until they are turn golden on each side. Remove the egg plants from the pan then set aside.
- Add additional olive oil to the pan then sauté garlic, and onion.
- Add the oregano, basil, red wine vinegar, capers, olives and chopped and pureed tomato, bring to a boil then add fried egg plant, yellow pepper, and zucchini and simmer for 15 minutes in low heat. You might need to add a bit of water if it dries out while simmering.
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then garnish with chopped parsley.
- At this point it is ready to eat however I usually leave it on a slow simmer for about an hour to reduce it to a thick paste and further combine the flavors. Today I’m using it on a grilled cheese sandwich. If you can keep your people from eating it ALL with a fork right out of the pot and you manage to have left overs or you were smart enough to double or triple this recipe…it is delicious on pasta or rice. It is also wonderful on fish or chicken. I often cut up a store roasted chicken and add it to the caponata then serve it over rigatoni. It is also good on crostini as an appetizer.
It freezes well so I usually make two or three batches and enjoy it any time for a quick and easy dinner.
Caponata Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- 8 slices of fresh sourdough bread
- slightly softened butter
- 8 slices of provolone
- 12 slices of prosciutto
- 1/2 cup of pesto
- your freshly made Caponata.
- For each sandwich: Butter one side of two pieces of bread. Heat your frying pan (I use cast-iron) to medium hot, add both pieces of sourdough butter side down.
To one piece of sourdough add 1 to 2 tablespoons of pesto depending on the size of your bread. And to the other piece of sourdough add a generous helping of Capanata add 2 slices of prosciutto on one side and 3 slices of provolone cheese on the other cover to allow steam to melt the cheese. When the bread is golden brown and toasted to your liking put the two pieces together to create the sandwich.
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