This is how Vincenzo Mortillaro, Marquis of Villarena, in his New Sicilian-Italian Dictionary of 1853 tells us the origin of the caponata , that of fish (like the better known swordfish or octopus) and the subsequent introduction of vegetables. These are artichokes (cacocciuli) in winter and aubergines (milinciani) in summer, not to mention the variations that include peppers (pipi). It tells us about the baronial cuisine of the Monsù family and the ingenuity of popular cuisine.
Capunata - sort of delicacy where fish, petronciani, or artichokes, and other condiments enter, and are mostly eaten cold, or between one dish and another for a taste, or after hot dishes, appetizing snack.
New Sicilian-Italian Dictionary. Vincenzo Mortillaro (1853)
The appetizing delicacy is defined as a return-taste dish, because in the great noble lunches of the 18th and 19th centuries it was offered between one course and another to cleanse and refresh the palate. This function was entrusted to a sauce which constituted the essence of the sauce: sweet and sour
Caponata and sweet and sour
It is an ancient flavor that narrates not only the history and gastronomy, but also the dietetic science : the logic of the opposites temperament and the conservation methods.
The Latin doctors used to say that "the opposites are healed with the opposites" and even in the kitchen it was essential to achieve a balance. Each food was combined with another of opposite quality, to compensate for the nature of each food. In this way, poor cooking won over hunger: it discovered how to stop the passage of time by keeping food longer.
Vinegar and sugar (and more generally citrus fruits and sugars) are excellent preservatives. For this reason sweet and sour should be consumed at least after a day of rest, of settling, I like to say. Also, as the days go by, it gets better and better.
Grandma and aunt are true masters of caponata, with which they have always delighted the palates of my greedy family. An ancient recipe , which we re-propose at Nuzza&Ddia's table with joy and emotion.
Ingredients for 4 people)
- 2 home-grown black aubergines
- 1 celery heart weighing at least 50 g
- 80 g pitted green olives , halved lengthwise, or in thick rings
- 40 g of salted capers
- 1 large white onion
- 25 g of astrattu ( tomato extract )
- Half a cup of tomato puree (if you prefer you can use canned tomatoes, I like the creaminess of the puree. If you want a redder caponata, abound according to your taste, remembering however that the abstract is salty)
- ½ glass of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 50 g of toasted almonds , reduced to grains
- About 20 g of gratedextra dark chocolate
How to prepare sweet and sour sauce?
First of all, everyone has their own, who likes it more sour and who more sweet. Furthermore, just following the logic of correction and balance, let's remember that each food has its own degree of sweetness. For example, pumpkin compared to aubergines is very sweet, sweet and sour red pumpkin ( u' ficatu ri sette cannola ) comes to mind. So the sauce cannot be the same for all dishes, only practice will help you find the right sweet and sour.
For this recipe, and with these
doses, I like it like this:
- 70 ml of white wine vinegar
- 30 g of sugar
First, desalt the capers and olives at least four hours before starting the preparation. Just place them in a container with cold water which must be changed every hour.
Next, prepare the aubergines . Cut them into large cubes , sprinkle them with salt and place them in a colander. In this way they will lose their bitterness (the liquid of vegetation) and if you put a weight on them you will accelerate this osmotic process . Leave them like this for at least 40 minutes .
Now spread the aubergines on a tea towel and place another on top. This operation will serve to dry them and make your frying perfect, provided that the oil is hot. After that, transfer them to a large, large salad bowl.
Clean the celery , cut it into not too big pieces and blanch it. As soon as it is cooked, al dente, add the olives and capers for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and pour the ingredients, keeping the cooking water. Dilute the extract with a glass of hot water and dissolve the sugar with the vinegar .
It's time to prepare the onion . Peel and slice the onion and put it in a pan with the rest of the oil, fry it and continue cooking, helping yourself with the broth made from the celery . When the onion is well cooked but not mushy, add the celery with olives and capers , the tomato extract and puree. Stir, cook for a few minutes and finally add the sweet and sour sauce . Remove from the fire. Pay attention: the onion must not be dry or watery , but moist and creamy at the right point.
At this point compose the caponata: pour the hot preparation over the aubergines and mix delicately. Add the chocolate , some of the almonds and pine nuts and mix again.
Sprinkle with the remaining dried fruit . At this point wait patiently for the return-taste to rest: serve the caponata the next day at room temperature . You will see, the desire to taste it in all respects will return.
Enjoy your meal in the sign of the ancient
tradition and family warmth.
Don't feel like making caponata? We give it to you, as homemade, with genuine, quality and above all 100% Sicilian ingredients! Discover also our variations, such as the artichoke and swordfish caponata.