Roasted eggplant caponata is a delightful take on the classic Italian appetizer, making it easy to enjoy year round. Think of it as a chunkier cousin to Middle Eastern baba ghanoush, another eggplant spread.
Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant dish that’s sometimes referred to as a salad. But with many of its ingredients cooked or roasted, I think of it simply as a warm or room temperature vegetable dish or even as a spread, since its best use is to be eaten on fresh or grilled bread, or even on pita.
Caponata can be prepared a number of different ways. Sometimes the eggplant is roasted whole until collapsed, then scooped out of its skin and chopped; the remaining ingredients (including onions, celery, and tomatoes) are sautéed and combined with it. In other versions, everything, eggplant and all, are sautéed in the pan.
Roasting makes it easy. This version is particularly easy because all the vegetables (other than the tomatoes) are roasted together, and roasting tends to bring out the best flavors. The tomatoes. olives, and fresh herbs are combine with the just-roasted vegetables, allowing the flavors to meld as they cool down.
- 2 medium eggplants or 3 smaller ones, about 1 1/2 pounds total, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch or so dice
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium celery stalks, diced
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 12 to 16 ounces ripe tomatoes, diced, or one 14-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes, lightly drained
- 1 cup chopped pitted green olives or black olives, preferably brine-cured
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, optional
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup roasted pine nuts, optional
- Preheat the oven to 425º F.
- Combine the eggplant, onion, and celery in a mixing bowl and drizzle in about half of the olive oil.
- Transfer to a parchment-lined roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir in the garlic. Continue to roast until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown lightly, about 15 minutes longer.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the eggplant mixture with the remaining olive oil and all the rest of the ingredients and stir together.
- Allow to cool until just warm or at room room temperature, then transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Or, if time allows, let stand at room temperature, covered, to let the flavors blend more completely. Serve with fresh bread, bruschetta, or pita wedges.
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Photos of Eggplant Caponata: Elena Veselova / Bigstock