Caponatayields 8-10 servings - level Advanced
- 4 firm Italian eggplants, about 1 ½ pounds total
- 4 firm zucchini
- 5 large plum tomatoes, or 1 (14-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
- 2 firm red bell peppers
- 2 firm yellow bell peppers
- 1 cup California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper or peperoncino (red pepper flakes)
- Set yourself up with two colanders. Trim the stems from the eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut the slices lengthwise into strips about 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide, and cut those strips crosswise into cubes. Put the eggplant cubes into one of the colanders. Cube the zucchini the same way, and put it into the second colander. Thoroughly toss each vegetable with about 2 teaspoons salt. Set a plate directly on top of the vegetables in each colander, and weight the plates with a couple of large cans. (This will press out the water and intensify the flavor of the vegetables.) Put the colanders in the sink, or on two deep plates to catch the water, and set them aside for at least 2 hours to drain.
- If you’re using fresh tomatoes, bring a saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Set a plate near the stove. Add the tomatoes to the water and let them bob around until the skin begins to pull away from the flesh, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the tomatoes to the plate with a slotted spoon or “spider” and let them cool a few minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel off the skins with your fingers. Chop the tomatoes, put them in a bowl, and set them aside. (If you’re using canned tomatoes, coarsely chop the tomatoes—a food processor works just fine for this—and set them aside in a bowl with their juice.)
- Cut off and discard the tops of the bell peppers. Cut the peppers in half through the stem ends and pull out the seeds with your fingers. Carefully cut out the fleshy, white ribs with a small knife. Then slice the peppers into strips 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide; cut the strips crosswise into squares. Dump the eggplant out onto paper toweling. Cover with more paper toweling and pat dry completely. Do the same with the zucchini, keeping the vegetables separate.
- Set a 9-by-13-inch baking dish next to the stove. Place two large skillets on top of two burners over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil to each pan and heat until the oil is hot enough to sizzle when you add a piece of eggplant. Then put the eggplant into one pan and the zucchini into the other. Cook, stirring every now and then with a wooden spoon, until the vegetables just begin to color, about 20 minutes. Scrape all the vegetables out into the baking dish.
- Turn the heat to low under one skillet. Add another 1/4 cup California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil and the garlic to the skillet. Heat the oil until you smell the garlic a bit, 1 to 2 minutes. (Don’t let the garlic color or it will get strong tasting.) Now add the chopped tomato (fresh or canned, with juices), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the parsley. Cover and simmer very gently until the tomatoes are soft and saucy, about 25 minutes for fresh or 35 minutes for canned. Scrape into the baking dish.
- While the tomatoes cook, add the remaining 1/4 cup California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil to the second pan, set it over medium heat, and heat until a little piece of onion sizzles when you add it to the pan. Add the chopped onion and cook 5 minutes. Add the diced peppers and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring now and then, until the peppers are very soft, about 25 more minutes. Add to the baking dish.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F and center a rack in the oven.
- Add 1/8 teaspoon black pepper or peperoncino to the vegetables in the baking dish and gently stir all the vegetables together. Taste, and add salt or pepper to your liking. (We don’t really do spicy, but you can add more red pepper, if you like.) Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake 25 minutes.