Our Sicilian vacation has arrived to its conclusion yesterday. We arrived home last night and have not stopped rushing since. First day of school, food shopping, unpacking, washing the clothes & our dog coming back from his own vacation. Whew! That we did all in one morning literally zipping all over the place. The transition from a laid back vacation among my husband's relatives then going back to reality was like having a cold pail of water being dumped on our heads.
We are on our own again with two vibrant kids fully energized by Duracell batteries that at midnight, were still up and about. The Duracell advertisement comes to my mind whenever I see my two kids struggling to combat fatigue and sleepiness at nighttime.Their movements become slower, more emphasized and clumsier but they still go on, exactly like the advertisement.
While staying in my husband's aunt's house, I had my very own domestic "culinary school" at hand. One of the dishes that they did was the caponata. My husband's aunt & mother were behind the pots, pans, chopping boards and knives while I was behind the camera.
Caponata is a classic Sicilian vegetarian dish done mainly with fried aubergines mixed with other vegetables in sweet & sour tomato sauce. It can be eaten as an appetizer, side dish or main dish. Or in my husband's case, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert, for 3 straight days. It's one of those dishes that become better with time. I like it best the day after when all the flavors have already blended together.
This trip had been one extreme culinary adventure for me. Aside from learning the family and traditional recipes, I also got to watch a couple of women adept in whipping up delicious meals in the kitchen. Town after town I visited, I tried the specialties and took home gastronomic souvenirs. I've always had a soft spot for Sicilian cuisine and recreating it at home is one of the pleasures I have in cooking.
- 1 kilo big, round violet aubergines, diced (or any type of aubergines)
- Olive oil
- 1 big white onion, sliced thinly (easier if mandoline is used)
- 1/3 cup capers, preserved in salt or vinegar
- 1/3 cup green olives, pitted & quartered
- 1 cup passata di pomodoro (tomato puree or sauce)
- 1 head celery, cleaned & diced
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 8 teaspoons white sugar (can be adjusted according to taste)
- 6 teaspoons white wine vinegar (can be adjusted according to taste)
- In a bowl of salted water, soak the aubergines for about 10 minutes then drain.
- Over high heat, in a saucepan with a lot of olive oil, fry the aubergines in a saucepan until they turn brownish. Set aside.
- Over medium heat, in another saucepan with a little bit of water, cook the onions.
- When the water evaporates, add the oil then put the heat down to low. Sautè until they become brownish.
- Add the tomato puree. Cook for about 15 minutes then turn off the fire. Set aside.
- Over medium heat, in a third cooking pot, put the celery then add some water until they are completely covered. Cook for about 15 minutes then add a pinch of salt. Drain then set aside.
- Meantime, rinse the capers under the faucet. Soak them in a bowl of water for about 10 minutes. Drain then squeeze out the water lightly. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix the sugar and vinegar then set aside.
- Over high heat, in a big saucepan with olive oil, sautè the celery. Add the sauteed onions with tomato sauce then add a little bit of water. Add the basil and olives. Mix then add the aubergines.
- After about 10 minutes, add the sugar & vinegar mixture. Adjust the taste according to your liking. More vinegar if you want it stronger or less if you want it to be less strong. Cook for another 20 minutes.
- Serve at room temperature or cold. Caponata tastes better when cooked much ahead, even better when it's already a day old. Keep in the refrigerator.