Jeff Banker makes a summery, California-inspired version of this classic Italian sweet-and-sour mix of eggplant, celery, tomato, olives and currants by grilling the eggplant instead of frying it. He also throws in mint at the end for freshness.
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 eggplants (about 1 pound each), peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup currants
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
1/4 cup chopped mint
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°. Put the pine nuts in a pie plate and toast for about 4 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool.
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat until nicely charred and tender, about 4 minutes per side. Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch dice.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the diced onion, celery, currants, crushed red pepper and toasted pine nuts and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion and celery are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, light brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and simmer, stirring a few times, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.
Add the grilled eggplant and the olives to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature, garnished with the chopped mint.
The caponata can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Serve lightly chilled or at room temperature.
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