caponata aka sicilian ratatouille

Caponata is the Italian version of the classic French eggplant and tomato dish, ratatouille. Like any recipe, there are a bunch of versions, most of which include capers and olives. Strictly speaking, neither of those are Paleo friendly, and frankly, I don’t particularly like capers anyway. From a flavor standpoint, the caponata I’ve had that has both capers and olives is too salty and makes your mouth pucker. Thankfully, Mario Batali has a recipe which omits all non-Paleo friendly ingredients and adds balance and depth of flavor. The recipe below makes a few adaptations and is designed to be easier in that you can cook everything in one pot. It also swaps expensive pine nuts for cheaper and locally in season pecans. I did, however, add a mint sauce to cut the spiciness of the recipe, which I had originally made per Mario’s instructions with 1 tablespoon of crushed pepper instead of what I’m recommending below, 1/2 tablespoon. Enjoy!

ingredients:

caponata

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pecans, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons currants, sub golden raisins if necessary
  • 1/2  tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 large or 2 medium eggplants, whatever gets you to about 4 cups
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, natural or Dutch processed is fine
  • 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup water as needed, see below

mint sauce

mix the two ingredients below together, or place in a blender. 

  • 1/4 cup mint, finely chopped. Or, if you don’t have mint, use parsley. Different flavor, but also very good
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or if you don’t want the dairy, use olive oil

instructions:

  1. In a large sautee pan with reasonably high walls, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. When hot, add the onion, red pepper, currants and pecans. Cook for 5 minutes until softened.
  3. Add the garlic and sautee for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent.
  4. Add the eggplant, cinnamon, cocoa,  and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, thyme, and balsamic vinegar.
  6. Bring to a high simmer, and cook for 5 minutes
  7. Depending on the liquid content in the eggplant and crushed tomatoes, you may need to add a little bit of water to prevent stuff from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If you do need to add water, just add a little bit at a time.
  8. After the 5 minutes, turn heat to low, and cook covered for 15 minutes. Open once during this time to make sure nothing is burning on the bottom of the pan.
  9. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.
  10. Plate with mint sauce and mint leaves.

eggplant caponata

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