In 2008, I had a real Eat, Pray, Love summer. I had broken up with my boyfriend of many years the previous fall, and almost immediately decided I needed to spend the summer learning to cook Italian food in Tuscany. A friend of my bosses set me up to do a stage with a fantastic chef named Salvatore in a little town called Greve in Chianti. His restaurant had just a few tables inside, and several more outside. He ran the kitchen and his wife tended to the guests. I rented a little apartment at an agriturismo just outside of town and walked into Greve each morning to spend the day cooking, visiting farms, vineyards, butchers–really following Salvatore around. I learned how to cook everything on the menu at Mangiando, Mangiando, one or two recipes at a time. They are hyper-local in Italy so it was very unusual to find caponata on a menu in Tuscany, but Salvatore’s mother was from Sicily, where eggplants are everywhere. This is her recipe as he remembered it. As eggplants are coming into season now, this is the perfect recipe to celebrate their bounty. It can be served warm over cous cous or as Salvatore would have served it, chilled on top of sliced, grilled ciabatta.
3 cups medium diced eggplant
2 bell peppers, not green, but feel free to mix it up with yellow, orange, and red
1/2 red onion, julienned
2 heirloom tomatoes, large diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
Heat oil over medium in a saucepot. Saute peppers, onions, and garlic until they begin to color. Add eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, and vinegar. Simmer until most of the liquid is cooked off. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill.
This recipe is even better the next day once the flavors have had time to mingle. Pour a glass of Sangiovese and enjoy on the patio.