This robust spread is a treat from Sicily. Serve it on crostini or with crackers, pita bread or crudites such as celery sticks. It keeps, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Yield: Makes about 4 cups (1 L) (¼ cup/50 mL per serving)
2 tbsp (25 mL) balsamic vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) packed brown sugar
3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes and drained of excess moisture
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano leaves
½ tsp (2 mL) cracked black peppercorns
1 can (14 oz/398 mL) diced tomatoes, including juice
½ cup (125 mL) chopped pitted black olives
1 tbsp (15 mL) drained capers
2 tbsp (25 mL) toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp (25 mL) chiffonade of basil leaves, optional (see Notes)
1. In a small bowl, combine vinegar and brown sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Set aside.
2. In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the oil over mediumhigh heat for 30 seconds. Add eggplant, in batches, and cook, stirring and tossing, until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
3. In same skillet over medium heat, adding more oil if necessary, cook onion and celery, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, with juice, and balsamic mixture and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute to reduce liquid. Transfer to stoneware and stir thoroughly.
4. Cover and cook on Low for 7 to 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until eggplant is tender. Stir in olives and capers. Transfer to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Garnish with pine nuts and basil, if using.
To cut the basil into chiffonade, stack the leaves, 4 at a time, roll them into a cigar shape and slice as thinly as you can.
Works best in a small (maximum 3½ quart) slow cooker.
You’ll achieve the best results if you make the caponata a day ahead and chill overnight in the refrigerator.