Called Melanzana in Italian from the latin Mela insana, a “not healthy” vegetable and was considered to be poisonous, but so were tomatoes and potatoes!
I love them grilled,roasted,fried… and even with chocolate! Yes there are several recipes of eggplants with chocolate in the southern parts of Italy. Later I will put the recipe on for a Chocolate Eggplant Dessert from Amalfi and one from Sicily.
For the more traditional here is a favorite for the summer served cold. It is best made the day before to let the flavors blend.
Sicilian Caponata ( NOTE: i wrote this before actually ever going to Sicily– no bell pepper there)
This fabulous vegetable stew is wonderful as a cold summer dish or served warm.
There are as many versions as there are Sicilian cooks. Tomatoes were not introduced into Italian cooking until after 1650. I have chosen not to use them in this version, Many modern versions also have tomato. To me is seems more like Ratatouille.
2 eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 stalks celery, threaded and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 white onions, chopped into large pieces
1/2 cups pitted green olives, whole
1 tbs capers
1 tbs toasted pinenuts
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs vinegar ( I would suggest a red wine vinegar from Italy, if not the grocery store quality of Balsamic which contains great Italian red wine vinegar and is already a little sweet.)
extra virgin olive oil for cooking
sea salt or kosher salt ( no iodine!)
Saute the eggplant in a non-stick skillet, place in a bowl.
Saute the celery in olive oil, place with eggplant.
Saute onions and the bell peppers in olive oil until transparent.
Add the eggplant and celery back into the saute pan and cook together for 5 minutes and add the capers, pinenuts and the olives.
Add sugar and vinegar to taste.
Cook for 5 minutes and add salt to taste.
Add more sugar or vinegar as desired for the sweet and sour flavor.
If you are serving it cold, you will need to adjust the flavors and make your flavoring stronger.
There is another version where tomatoes are added too, this seems more like the French Ratatouille. Feel free to create your own version.
These flavors are ancient, sweet and sour, also called Dolce Forte and are prevalent in Spanish and Arab cuisines. Sicily, as Venice, were occupied by both and hence the influence in the cuisine.
EGGPLANT: I do not peel or salt the eggplants first. I think they are fine just cooked for this recipe.
OIL: I ONLY use Extra Virgin Olive Oil to cook with, the best I can afford as it really effects the flavor of the dish. The vegetables here are really pan-fried, so use more that a couple of tablespoons to cook the veggies in…PLEASE.