By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
I’m just back from my summer vacation in Sicily, where my family has a house on the island of Vulcano. This mansion was built by my grandfather in 1964, and it is the highest on the island. From my terrace, I can see the volcano and all the other little islands—such a beautiful view!
During my vacations, I have a ritual. Every year I must go to my favorite trattoria to eat the best CAPONATA of the world. Caponata is a delicious sweet-and-sour eggplant-based vegetarian dish that you can serve cold or hot, as an appetizer or as a side dish.
Caponata has Arabic roots and dates back to when Sicily was under their control. The vegetables in the dish—capers, onions, olives, celery, pinenuts, and carrots—were also used to cook fish, the pesce capone served on the aristocratic tables.
The "poor" version of this globally famous dish utilizes eggplants instead of fish, and it is called caponata to remember the name of the missing fish.
1 big eggplant, diced (do not peel!)
1 celery stalk, 1/2" slices
5 roma tomatoes, cubed
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick
1 tsp capers
10 green olives, pitted
1 tsp white vinegar
1 Tbs white sugar
5 basil leaves
Salt and Pepper
Sauté the onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the capers, pine nuts, and olives. Continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
While the tomatoes are cooking, heat another skillet to sauté the diced eggplant until golden. Place the eggplant on a tray lined with a paper towel to drain the oil with the paper. Once drained, add to the tomato mixture and return the mixture to the flame. Cook for several minutes over low heat, stirring gently.
Stir in the vinegar and the sugar. When the vinegar has almost completely evaporated, remove the pan from the heat. Add basil and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Let cool.
Serve the caponata at room temperature. It keeps for several days in the fridge—and the flavor improves with time!
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), and Superfoods, Ippo is currently finishing her latest work, The Lords of Florence (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).