Palermitan Caponata recipe is probably the most worldwide famous Sicilian Caponata. This sweet and sour appetizer had been originally served as side dish, and paired with grilled Mahi Mahi. The Palermitan Caponata recipe is prepared into two different variations: the first one simpler in ingredients, the second enriched with pine nuts, raisin, and roasted almonds. Here the traditional recipe of Palermitan Caponata!
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CAPONATA RECIPE INTO THE SICILIAN CUISINE
The Caponata is a classic and controversial Sicilian recipe. Speaking about Caponata with more than a Sicilian can get confusing: every person will give you a different recipe swearing that’s the original one: this is because Sicily boasts 37 official variations of Caponata and much more personal family recipes!
Caponata is usually served as appetizer or side dish, paired with toasted bread, or seafood, or grilled meats.
To read the complete history of the Sicilian Caponata, and the recipes of the main variations, click here!
Along with the Agrigentina, the Messinese, and the Catanese, the Palermitan is one of the most famous Sicilian Caponatas. The Palermitan version is likely the most popular abroad, thanks to the Pensabene family, that started the industrial production of jarred Caponata since 1869, selling that in several regions over the Italian borders, like Americas, Africa, and the Middle East. Another historical manufacter of jarred Caponata is the Fratelli Contorno factory, since 1916.
The Palermitan Caponata comes in two variations: the Basic, and the Rich.
- The Basic variation is made with the vegetables and Agrodolce (sweet and sour) sauce.
- The Rich variation is enhanced with toasted pine nuts, grated almonds, raisin, and cocoa powder.
They are both delicious, but in my opinion, into the rich version flavors are better balanced.
TIPS AND SERVING
RESTING – The resting is a critical and essential step. Just cooked, the Caponata taste is not what you expect. It needs at least 8 hours (best if 24 hours) in the fridge to bring out the original flavor. I strongly suggest you do not serve the Caponata before the right resting; you might be disappointed!
EGGPLANTS – The best eggplants to prepare the Caponata recipe are the purple-black little or baby eggplants skin on: you want not to peel them to save all the different flavors of the eggplants. The salt purging is strongly recommended.
FRYING OIL – Traditionally, the eggplants are fried in olive oil. I’m aware that outside Italy this step can be quite expensive, the taste is incomparable. In case you don’t want to use extra virgin olive oil, replace with sesame oil.
PAIRING – Following the legend, the Caponata has been originally paired with the Capone fish (Mahi Mahi). Nowadays Caponata is served as an appetizer along with bread or, less common, as a side dish of grilled meats and seafood.
PALERMITAN CAPONATA RECIPE
- 1.5 Lb (700 g) Little or baby eggplants
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 celery stick
- 3/4 cups (170g) tomato puree (best if San Marzano)
- 1 tbsp capers in sea salt (alternatively, capers in vinegar)
- 12 Castelvetrano olives, pitted
- 6 basil leaves
- 1.5 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 cups (500 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- to taste table salt
- 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts (rich variation)
- 1 tbsp roasted almonds (rich variation)
- 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder (rich variation)
- 1 tbsp raisin (rich variation)
- PURGING EGGPLANTS AND CAPERS
First of all, soak the capers 2 hours at least in a bowl filled with water to discard the salt replacing the water a couple of times. If you decide to use capers in vinegar, just avoid this last step.
After that, dice the eggplants into cubes about 1.5 inches per side, then pour the pieces into a colander seasoning them with 2 tbsp of coarse salt. Now place the strainer into a bowl or directly into the sink and let the salt purge the dark liquid of the eggplants for at least 1 hour up to 3 hours.
- ONIONS SOFFRITTO
Peel and reduce a half red onion into slices about ½ inches thick, then sauté them over medium heat along with 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 pinch of salt until tender and translucent. At this point, add the tomato puree and cook 15 minutes more. Finally, turn off the heat and put the saucepan aside.
- FRIED EGGPLANTS AND BOILED CELERY
Once properly purged, rinse the eggplants pieces under running water and brush away any trace of salt. Then, dry the eggplants accurately with a kitchen towel pressing gently.
At this point, pour 1.5 cups of olive oil into a saucepan and heat until the oil reaches 335° F (170° C). Then, fry the eggplants a little at a time until golden. Finally, raise the vegetable cubes and dry over paper towels.
After that, rinse the celery stick and cut it into pieces 1 inch long. Then, cook the celery into boiling water 4 minutes. Finally, raise the pieces and dry over kitchen towels.
- CAPONATA “AGRODOLCE”
Now, crush the olives into big pieces with your hands and pour them into the onions and tomato soffritto along with the fried eggplants, the boiled celery, the capers, and the roughly chopped basil leaves.
After that, place the saucepan over the heat. Eventually, add the vinegar and the sugar, raise the flame, and sauté 10 minutes more.
- RICHER VERSION
If you go for the richer version of Palermitan Caponata, also add 1 tbsp of toasted pine nuts, 1 tbsp of grated roasted almonds, 1 tbsp raisin, and ½ tbsp of cocoa powder, then cook 3 minutes more.
- REST AND SERVE
Immediately after cooking, the Caponata is not ready to serve; it’s need of 1 night into the fridge to melt the flavors together. Before serving, let the Caponata rest 30 mins at room temperature, then pair with toasted bread slices, grilled meats or fish.
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