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Caponata is a Sicilian vegetable stew that can be served cold or hot and that is made with eggplants, green olives, celery, onions, capers, seasoned with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar.

Numerous variations exist with some versions adding tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, pine nuts or raisins: they are all delicious. There is a Palermo version that adds octopus, another includes lobster and swordfish garnished with wild asparagus, grated dried tuna roe and shrimp. That’s decadent!

It’s very easy to make: strip the celery filaments, cut them into bite-size pieces, sauté them in oil, and set them aside. Do the same with the onions; they both must remain firm. The chopped eggplant may be sautéed, though the traditional recipe recommends frying them. Mix all the ingredients together and simmer for 10 minutes at low heat.

Caponata is typically an appetizer or a side dish but it can also be used as a main course, as a topping or a filling. A very versatile dish that keeps for several days in the fridge, and that improves with time.

Eggplant was introduced throughout the Mediterranean area by the Arabs who found the plant in India. Sicily, from 948 to 1072, was called the Emirate of Sicily, an Islamic state with Palermo as its capital, but the invasion of the island started a century before, in 827. Almost 250 years, and that’s why a lot of Sicilian recipes have Arabic roots.

For a long time eggplants were believed to be poisonous because the flowers and leaves contain solanine, but you need to eat them in large quantities to actually die. Stick to the fruit.