By Christine Martin

Eggplant is not a vegetable that I cook with often. It has a very unique flavour and texture, which can make it challenging to know how to use it properly. So I am always intrigued to find new ideas about how to incorporate this beautiful vegetable into my cooking.

On Valentine’s Day a number of years ago, and I was searching for a new appetizer recipe, when I first came across caponata. Our kids were just babies and we couldn’t find a babysitter in order for us to go out to eat. Instead, my husband and I decided to have a nice, romantic dinner at home once the kids were asleep. It was my first time making caponata and we both instantly fell in love with it. Now, whenever we want a gourmet treat, we make this dish!

Over the years, I’ve tweaked the recipe a few times, to make it exactly how we like it. This rustic Italian recipe is so versatile, you can serve it many different ways: hot or cold, as an appetizer or salad, or as a sauce on top of chicken or fish. The flavour is so incredible that your taste buds will be longing for more after every bite.

Rustic Italian Caponta, Courtesy of Christine Martin, amidstthechaos.ca, Pickering, Ont

This versatile dish is an elegantly easy way to enjoy eggplant.

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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 appetizer servings

Ingredients
1/4 cup (50 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into ½-inch pieces
salt
1 medium onion, diced
2 large ribs celery, thinly sliced crosswise
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1 (14 oz /398 mL) can diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tsp (10 mL) rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp (15 mL) white sugar
2-3 Tbsp (30-45 mL) pine nuts, toasted

Instructions
1. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil.
2. When oil starts shimmering, add eggplant and pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until eggplant is softened and browned. Remove from heat; scrape eggplant into bowl. Set aside.
3. Return skillet to heat. Add onion, celery and another pinch of salt. Sauté until onions are slightly softened and somewhat translucent.
4. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
5. Stir in tomatoes, vinegar and sugar.
6. Return eggplant to skillet. Reduce heat and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes, adding reserved tomato liquid if needed to keep mixture from drying out.
7. Remove from heat and fold in the pine nuts. Salt to taste.

Tip: Most pine nuts are sold raw. For this recipe you’ll want to toast them in a frying pan on low heat. Make sure to keep a close eye on them, stirring frequently to avoid burning.

Amidst the Chaos
Christine is the editor and creative thinker behind Amidst the Chaos, a food and lifestyle blog that focuses on finding beauty every day, amid the chaos of life. She is a work-at-home mom who resides in the Greater Toronto Area with her husband and their three kids under the age of five.