Caponata “My Way” – Adding a French Twist to an Italian Dish

Caponata is known as “Italy’s answer to French ratatouille.” This sweet-and-sour condiment combines fried eggplant and other vegetables. It’s packed with flavor, and is great on bruschetta. Or serve it with grilled meat or fish, or as a pasta sauce. Variations abound across Italy. We even came across a caponata topped with chocolate.

“Everybody has a slightly different recipe, but the version most recognizable to Americans is Sicilian, typically made with olives and capers, as well as vinegar and sugar to give it the familiar sweet-and-sour taste,” Anna Boiardi says in her new cookbook, Delicious Memories (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011).

Boiardi comes from a famous culinary family. She’s the granddaughter or Mario Boiardi and the great-niece of Hector Boiardi, founders of The Chef Boiardi Food Product Co. Boiardi herself was born in Italy, and learned to cook from her mother and grandparents. She also spent a year in southern France attending school when she was 20.

Boiardi says her version of caponata — what she calls “Caponata, My Way” — is “bi-cultural,” reflecting her Italian roots and the ratatouille prepared by “the lady of the house” where she stayed in France.

“Madame’s method appealed to me because it considers each vegetable’s cooking time (peppers take longer than zucchini, for instance),” Boiardi writes. “Nothing overcooks, I can taste each vegetable, and nothing turns to mush.” (Click here to see caponata recipe.)

Boiardi applies the same method to her caponata, frying the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, sweet peppers and onions individually in extra virgin olive oil. She then combines all the vegetables, and bakes them in an oven for about 25 minutes to meld the flavors.

“It’s good cold or hot, and it gets better as it sits — two days after you make it, it’s perfect,” Boiardi says.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch