Caponata is one of those classic eggplant dishes that, once eaten, is never forgotten. This sweet-and-sour version of the traditional antipasto is a great addition to any summer BBQ. It is delicious either spread... over grilled bread, bruschetta-style, or as a tasty accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken. It is very easy to make, too. An added bonus is that aside from being so tasty, this dish is loaded with healthy olive oil and the many phytonutrients that eggplant, celery, and tomatoes bring to the table.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (See Chef Tips.)
Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a bowl and quickly toss the eggplant in it to coat. The oil will take patchily to the eggplant. Drizzle an extra 1-2 teaspoons of oil onto the prepared baking sheet. Tip the eggplant onto the sheet and spread into a single layer. Roast on a high shelf for about 20-25 minutes until golden, turning after about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside the pan.
Meanwhile, place the celery in a small pan and add the boiling water. Cook over high heat until just tender but still crisp, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When it ripples, add the onion. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion is transparent and starting to color, about 5-8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring 1 minute or until it just starts to caramelize. Add the celery and its cooking water. Stir to mix. Add the capers, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes.
Add the roasted eggplant, vinegar, and sugar to taste. Stir to mix. Lower the heat to medium and cook partially covered for 5 minutes. Completely cover and turn off the heat. Leave to cool. Serve at room temperature.
To give the eggplant a good start, preheat the lined baking sheet in the oven.
Two medium eggplants can be used in place of one large one. After dicing the eggplant, lightly salt it and leave it to drain in a colander. You’ll be amazed at how much liquid will drain out!