I have been making Eggplant Caponata for decades.
I remember being amazed when my mother served this quite exotic dish when I returned home for vacation early in my college career (this would have been 1964 or 1965—years when cooks were becoming more adventurous). It was not something we grew up eating. I must have asked for the recipe, because I now have it, the only recipe I have written in her hand, on lined yellow paper.
It soon became a staple.
It’s hard to mention Eggplant Caponata without thinking of Sam's clarinet recitals. After the 30 or so young clarinetists played their pieces, the young musicians descended on a relatively elaborate set that the parents had set up.
There were always sweets and savories—lots of store-bought cookies, some home-made brownies and sometimes tiny meatballs or chicken wings. Once Cosco arrived--big platters of shrimps and wraps and fruit and vegetable platters appeared as well.
While not the most popular with the young musicians, my mother's Eggplant Caponata was a consistent hit with the parents.
Here it is:
Peel and chop one large eggplant into one-inch pieces, salt and set in a colander for about a half hour.
While the eggplant is sweating, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in pan and sauté two cups chopped onions, and one cup chopped celery. When these are melted (softened) rinse the eggplant, squeezing the pieces in paper towels to remove excess moisture and add it, with several cloves of crushed garlic to the vegetable mixture.
When the eggplant is lightly browned and moving towards tender, add 1 can chopped Italian tomatoes with their juice, a few grindings of black pepper and perhaps some salt (you might want to wait on the salt until the end--as the amount of salt in other ingredients might be enough).
Cook another ten minutes or so--then add 1/4 cup stuffed olives, 1/4 cup capers, 1 Tbsp. wine vinegar, 2 Tbsps. sugar, 1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts, and about 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Stir well. Remove from heat.
Serve chilled or at room temperature with crackers or bread.