Caponata began in the caupona, a special osteria in southern Italy serving cooked vegetables. History has it that sailors bought the vegetables while in port, then ate them flavoured with vinegar and sugar when at sea. The sweet-and-sour vegetable stew that evolved is lovely on its own, piled on garlicky toast, or served with grilled octopus or tuna.
Cut eggplants into thick slices, then into 1 cm (½ in) square cubes. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 1 hour to stand. Rinse well, drain and dry with paper towel. Heat
Heat extra olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes until they start to soften. Add celery, green olives, tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar, capers and eggplant. Cook for another 10 minutes until the taste of the vinegar is no longer sharp.
Serve at room temperature scattered with pine nuts and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, with lots of bread.
© 1998 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.