recipe

Two red onions, eggplant, pine nuts and celery stalks
Eggplant caponata with luganega sausage
Two red onions, eggplant, pine nuts and celery stalks
Eggplant caponata with luganega sausage

Eggplant caponata with luganega sausage

Andrew McConnell is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co, Cumulus Inc, Marion, Gimlet and Supernormal. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

There are no secrets to caponata. It’s a classic vegetable combination of sweet currants, sourness from the vinegar, rounded off with pine nuts. The sweet-sourness points towards Sicily. The flavour balance is in the nuances. And like all recipes, what is here is a guide. If it’s not sharp enough, spike it with a little extra vinegar. And don’t skimp on the garlic and the capers and the aromatics, which are the real basis of this dish.

We’ve all often read that some dishes taste better the next day. This is genuinely one of those dishes. If you need to, you can refrigerate the caponata for several days. At the very least, a night in the fridge will allow the flavours to develop. The most important thing to remember is to give it a good three or four hours to return to room temperature before eating.

I actually really like serving this caponata as part of an antipasti, or with a slice of bread and a glass of soave and calling it lunch. The sausage I use for this recipe is a Roman pork sausage, although most coarsely ground well-seasoned Italian pork sausages would be worthy.

There’s not really a lot to say about the sausage. There’s no mystery. You put it on the grill and turn it a little bit, and later you have a decent sausage. The only advice to give with the coil sausage is not to turn it too often because it will become fragile as it cooks.

This recipe adapts beautifully through the seasons. I love this recipe in the cooler months, enjoying the meatiness of the eggplant, the depth of flavour and the zing of the vinegar.

The eggplant can be replaced with zucchinis and tomatoes to make a more summery version, which is not at all traditional but is still delicious. 

Ingredients

Serves 4

Time: 1 hour preparation + 30 minutes cooking

  • 2 medium-sized eggplants
  • fine salt
  • 2 red capsicum
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup tomato passata
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 10 meaty green olives, pitted and sliced
  • 15g currants soaked in a cup of hot water
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • half bunch of basil
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 luganega sausages
Method
  1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC.
  2. Peel the eggplants and cut into two-centimetre dice. Sprinkle the eggplant with a tablespoon of fine salt and leave to drain in a colander for an hour or so.
  3. Meanwhile, place the capsicum on a roasting tray and rub with a few drops of olive oil. Place in the preheated oven and roast for 15 minutes, turning occasionally. When the skin has blistered somewhat, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  4. When the capsicum is cool enough to handle, remove the skin, deseed and cut into one-centimetre pieces.
  5. Rinse the eggplant and pat dry on a kitchen cloth.
  6. Place a medium-sized frypan over medium heat and cook half of the eggplant in two tablespoons of olive oil until golden brown (about four minutes). Transfer the cooked eggplant to a plate. Repeat this process with the remaining eggplant. Set the cooked eggplant aside.
  7. Now add the onion, celery and garlic to the same pan and cook over low heat until soft.
  8. Return the cooked eggplant to the pan along with the roast capsicum, tomato passata, capers, olives and currants.
  9. Cook for 15 minutes until soft and thickened. If the dish seems to get a little too thick, add a few tablespoons of water to loosen a touch.
  10. To finish, remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature. Season with salt and red wine vinegar to taste, and add the basil and pine nuts just before serving. This also keeps well in the fridge for five days.
  11. Serve alongside your cooked sausages.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 22, 2023 as "Caponata in hand".

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