Having just returned from a week in Sicily, my mind is flooded with vivid memories of granita, brioche, arancini and eggplant aka melanzane or mulinciani. Eggplant in Sicily plays the leading role in the legendary pasta alla norma, melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant parmesan with local caciocavallo cheese rather than parmesan) and caponata (cooked eggplant salad).
September marks the end of peak eggplant season and market stands are stocked with the tear-shaped dark purple vegetable. Capunata as my Sicilian grandparents would say is a cooked eggplant salad made with fried eggplant, celery and capers seasoned with vinegar and sugar. While variations of ingredients exist with some recipes adding raisins, potatoes and pine nuts and others including peppers, olives and carrots, I cherish this version.
- 2-3 pounds dark purple eggplant
- 1 bunch celery
- 1-2 sliced onions
- capers to taste
- green olives to taste
- homemade tomato paste to taste
- olive oil or vegetable oil for frying
- 1-2 cups good quality red wine vinegar
- black pepper
Wash and dice eggplant. Sprinkle it with salt and leave to drain in a colander for at least one hour. Squeeze to remove excess liquid. Deep fry in oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Clean and chop celery. Fry celery until golden. Saute onion in the same oil until translucent. Dilute tomato paste with warm water and add to the sauteed onion. Season with salt. Continue to cook for up to 20 minutes over medium heat. Add sugar, vinegar, capers, olives, eggplant and celery. Sprinkle with black pepper and simmer until done, approximately 10 minutes. Serve cold. This dish tastes best the following day if you can wait. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread.
Gina Tringali – food lover, certified sommelier, coffee connoisseur, and passionate home cook – is a successful freelance food and travel writer and blogger based between Rome and Southern Italy. She is committed to discovering and sharing with fellow food enthusiasts Italy’s best culinary and wine experiences.