1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 whole mashed anchovies
1 large onion, medium diced
2 cups celery, medium diced
3 medium eggplants, unpeeled but diced
5-6 medium fresh tomatoes, seeded and small diced
1 cup diced marinated artichoke hearts
1 small can Contadina tomato sauce
6 cloves finely minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. Frank Davis Sicilian Seasoning
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
3/4 cup sliced calamata olives
3/4 cup sliced Sicilian olives
1/2 cup pimento stuffed olives
1/2 cup pitted Green olives
1/4 cup fresh minced parstly
1/2 cup capers, rinsed
1/2 cup slightly roasted pine nuts
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
8 fresh basil leaves, finely minced
Thin Italian pepper crackers
8 oz. grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
In a heavy 6-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil, stir in the anchovies, and saute the onions and celery until just tender. Then drop in the diced eggplants and cook them (stirring constantly) until they soften. The tomatoes, artichoke hearts, tomato sauce, and garlic go in next, and you need to cook everything together until all the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Incidentally, all of this happens over a high heat!
At this point, reduce the fire to medium and simply begin adding and combining all the other ingredients--in the order listed except for the fresh basil. I suggest you add then one at a time and stir everything well between additions to get the full flavor to develop.
When everything is in the mix, remove the pot from the fire, stir well once again, and allow the mixture to come to room temperature. In the meantime, sterilize about a half dozen pint-size Mason jars and lids in boiling water and let them dry. Then when the caponatina has cooled, fill each jar and store in your refrigerator. It will keep for at least 6 weeks refrigerated.
This is authentic Sicilian caponatina, not northern Italian caponata. It retains the color of the eggplant and contains only enough olive oil to give the ingredients base flavor. For a more red color and a more concentrated tomato base, you can add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and cook it into the eggplants as they are sauteing. Keep in mind, however, that this greatly reduces the intensity of the eggplant flavor.
Before adding to the dish, the celery should be stripped of its long, stringy filaments. Dice them only after the stripping has been done and, for perfect texture, blanche the diced pieces in lightly salted simmering water for a few minutes to tenderize them.
To remove whatever 'bite' and bitterness might be in the diced eggplant pieces, I recommend that you place the pieces into a colander, liberally sprinkle them with salt, and let the oxalic acid bleach out of the vegetable into the sink for at least an hour. Rinse the chunks thoroughly after the 'sweating period' and dry them completely with a towel before adding them to the dish.
I also recommend that, while many recipes don't call for it, you 'do' peel the tomatoes before adding them into the caponatina.
You can serve caponatina as a cold appetizer directly from the refrigerator, but the olive oil will solidify slightly and give it a heavy taste. The best and most authentic method is to allow it to warm to room temperature and serve it on either saltines or Italian pepper crackers, topped with a light sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.
A good bottle of Italian rose wine makes the perfect accompaniment to this caponatina.
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