04aCaponataServebfLOBack in the day, at my first job out of school, I worked with a great group of ladies from a large Italian East Boston family, and they loved food.

Helen and Jebby were the first to introduce me to caponata – a kindofa sweet and sour eggplant salad that can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature and that always tastes better after sitting for a day or two in the fridge – and I do have their family recipe around here somewhere, but this one, I kinda made up as I went along…

0915MysteryBagbfLOSee, there was this ‘Mystery Bag’ from a local family farm. I sign up for a bag on a Friday, show up the next Tuesday with $10, and come home with stuff like this.

00aEggplantSaltbfLOThat’s a lotta eggplant and peppers and squash and stuff for just the two of us, so, knowing that we were having folk over for Sunday dinner, I decided to play around with a couple of recipes, and one of them was for caponata.

I served it as an appetizer to slather on crusty bread, but Golnaz liked it just as well as a salad with dinner, so it’s up to you how you use it – it really is all good.

•2 cups peeled, cubed eggplant
•2 cups chopped sweet onion
•3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tbsp)
00bEggplantCanbfLO•1 cup celery, diced
•1 green bell pepper, chopped
•1 poblano pepper, sliced
•2 yellow summer squash, diced (3 cups)
•1 (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes
•2 tsp sugar
•1 tbsp red wine vinegar
•1 tsp dried basil
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/4 cup quartered Kalamata olives
•1 tbsp capers

01bEggplantSquashbfLOToss the peeled and cubed eggplant with one tablespoon of salt in a colander, top it with a plate, then top that with a nice, heavy can (tomatoes work a treat) and let it rest in the sink, or sitting over a bowl, for an hour or three – we went out to lunch and to run a few errands and all was fine.

Rinse the eggplant well and pat dry with paper towels.

02aVeggiesPotbfLONote: I did the same thing with the summer squash, except that I did not peel it.

Warm four tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick pot over medium heat. Add eggplant, squash, onion, and peppers and cook, stirring every now and then, for about 12 minutes, until the eggplant is browned and the onion and peppers tender.

Stir in the garlic, cook for another minute, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Drizzle a bit more oil in the pot, then add the celery and cook until browned a bit and quite aromatic – about five minutes or so.

03cCaponatabfLOReduce the heat, add the tomatoes and cook for another three minutes.

Return the eggplant mixture to the pot and stir to combine. Cook for about a minute, then give it a taste and add sugar if you think it needs it. I added two teaspoons.

Stir in one tablespoon of red wine vinegar, the basil, black pepper and Aleppo pepper.

04bCaponataRelishTraybfLOAdd the olives and capers, cook for another minute or so, then taste again. Feel free to add another tablespoon or two of red wine vinegar if you think it needs it. Mine was pretty darned tasty just as it was.

Set aside to cool, then (best case) stash in a covered container in the fridge for a day or two before serving hot, cold, or at room temperature. I prefer room temp, but you do what you like.

It made a tasty addition to my relish tray of bread and butter pickles and zippy green beans with Irish butter and French bread on the side.

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