Dice the eggplant into cubes about one inch square without skinning it. Sprinkle with salt and put in a colander to drain.
Slice the onion thin and brown over very low heat, taking care that the oil doesn’t overheat, eventually adding a little water.
Rinse the eggplant cubes in running water, squeeze them dry and then fry in abundant peanut oil.
Pit the olives, rinse the capers in abundant running water, dice the celery stalks after removing their hard filaments. Put them all in boiling water with a half glass of vinegar, maintain the boil for 5 minutes then drain.
Check the onions and when you are sure they are completely cooked – and before the water has completely evaporated – add the tomato paste which has been reduced to the consistency of a thick, smooth sauce using a spoon. Add a half glass of vinegar and the sugar, which should completely dissolve. Add the olives, capers and celery and continue cooking for about three minutes. Add the fried eggplant, mix and remove from heat.
Serve cold on a platter, garnished with almonds and pistachios.
Did you know?
Caponata is an icon Sicilian dish. Eggplant, originally from China and India, found ideal growing conditions on the island, becoming the prime ingredient of many typical recipes. This dish (for which we recommend using the round-ovoid shaped variety, compact and with fewer seeds than the elongated type) has a precise protocol for frying the eggplant. Some ignore it, beforehand baking the diced eggplant and sliced onion in a bit of oil; the dish is lighter but perhaps less tasty. You can also make the caponata “fresher” by substituting the tomato paste with tomato puree or, even better, fresh tomatoes (nicely ripe, with seeds and juice removed and filleted), quickly sautéing them in the pan before adding them to the rest. The characteristic sweet and sour flavor can also be accentuated by preparing a base of honey and vinegar or by adding – to the capers and olives – a handful of pine nuts and sultana raisins soaked in water and squeezed dry, as is traditional in some parts of Sicily.
La Fermata di Porta Carini restores the hints of nuts, garnishing the dish with minced almonds and pistachios: an extra refinement. In the Catania area we found a further variation: caponata served with San Bernardo sauce, an old and sumptuous mixture of almonds, salted anchovies, vinegar, chocolate and orange.