This recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen. Here are the author’s notes: I am a heathen (!) who rarely salts my eggplant, which generations of eggplant-cookers swear improves its texture and fry-ability. I don’t find it necessary to get a good flavor (less bitter, is the argument) or texture and laziness wins. But, should you wish to, simply toss your eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or two of coarse salt in a colander and let it sit/drain for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Press out as much extra liquid as you can, then spread the eggplant out on a paper towels to dry it as well as possible before continuing with the frying step. Then feel free to tell me what I’m missing.
If you cannot bear to use canned crushed tomatoes when fresh ones are so good, feel free to chop your own plum tomatoes very well until you reach 1 cup. I peeled mine first (I use this when I just have one or two and don’t want the extra step of blanching) and squeezed out most of the seeds for a more canned-like texture.
- Enough olive oil to deep fry
- 2 pound eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
- 1 large yellow or sweet-variety onion, chopped medium-small
- 1 to 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup crushed canned tomatoes (or use fresh, see directions up top)
- 6 ounces (about 1 cup) green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup golden raisins (I used half for a less sweet caponata)
- 1/4 cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (I used 1 tablespoon, but sweeter is more traditional)
- 1/2 cup finely slivered basil
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted until golden and cooled
Making the eggplant
- In a large skillet (12 inches is ideal), heat oil over medium-high heat.
- Once very hot, working in batches, fry eggplant cubes in one layer at a time, stirring and turning occasionally until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to drain eggplant over skillet, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately season with salt.
- Repeat with remaining eggplant.
- Transfer drained and mostly cooled eggplant to a large bowl.
Making the rest
- Pour off all but 3 tablespoons olive oil, and reserve the rest for another use.
- Cook onions and and celery with salt and pepper over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium, add tomato paste and water and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 2 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes; cook for 10 minutes.
- Stir in olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes more.
- Transfer to bowl with eggplant, along with basil and pine nuts, and stir to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and let cool to room temperature before serving.