The autumnal solstice went by last week marking the end of summer and thus the dwindling of local, summer produce. By August I dream of apples, pumpkins, and even turnips. But my heart is in tomatoes, blackberries, and chile peppers and I soon pine again for those lovely summer fruits & vegetables that make life taste so fresh. So as an homage to summer and her bounty, these caponata sandwiches. These open faced sandwich explosions of flavor are ridiculous. The creamy garlic, lemon “aioli” perfectly complements the herb-simmered summer vegetables of the Caponata. And bonus points if you make freshly baked bread. I recommend ciabatta but anything crusty and you’re golden.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the inspiration for these came from Stephen’s friend & co-worked Michelle, who is known for making Caponata all summer long with the overload of tomatoes, eggplant & peppers from the farm, sweet farm. My 2014 summer culinary experience would have been much duller if she hadn’t brought her homemade Caponata to work that fateful day in July.
Caponata is extremely versatile. Use whichever Italian herbs you have on hand, fresh or dried. Sweeten with raisins if you need to balance out acidic tomatoes or less-than-sweet peppers. Just be sure to use lots of garlic, decent olive oil & plenty of red wine vinegar.
If you’re bread-averse, serve the Caponata by itself, as a side dish OR over pasta, rice, or quinoa.
- 1 large onion
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic
- 2 small yellow bell peppers
- 2 large celery stalks
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 large tomatoes, diced OR 1 can stewed tomatoes
- 1.5 tsp italian herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp raisin (optional)
- Hot sauce, to taste
- 3 tbsp mayo (Veganaise)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Pinch of salt
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in large sauté pan over medium heat.
- Dice onion, celery, and bell peppers. Add to hot oil. Stir gently for several minutes until onion & celery become translucent and soft.
- Large dice eggplant & mince garlic. Add to sauté pan and stir. Lower heat slightly to medium-low.
- Sauté for about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, italian herbs, remaining olive oil + red wine vinegar. If adding raising, do so now OR taste after simmering for 20 minutes to see if it needs sweetening.
- Stir to combine and allow to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
- Simmer until all the ingredients are quite soft (eggplant should melt in your mouth).
- Optional: Add hot sauce to taste. I think Crystal or similar Louisiana style hot sauce gives the caponata a little added flavor and just a kick of spice.
- For the aioli, simply whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Keep whisking until the mixture is thick & smooth.
- Toast thick slices of crusty bread until golden brown, using a 425F oven or toaster.
- Apply aioli liberally and top with about ⅓ cup of caponata.
- Devour & send your thanks via email or comments ; )