Eggplant Caponata Tapa | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Eggplant Caponata Tapa

This simple Italian-inspired vegetable spread makes a perfect small plate

A tapa is an appetizer or snack in Spanish cuisine. Tapas can be hot or cold and are often combined to make a full meal. The word itself is derived from the Spanish verb tapar which means “to cover” and historians have concluded that the original tapas were thin slices of meat or bread used to cover a drink in order to protect it from flies and dust.

These days the small plates can be a range of things from a simple bowl of olives to the popular patatas (potatoes) bravas to charcuterie with Iberian ham (cured Spanish ham) to dips such as baba ganoush or hummus.

Eggplant Caponata Tapa
Tambi Lane Photo
Eggplant is the main ingredient in this simple spread, great served with bread, crackers or other veggies

Eggplant (also known as aubergine) tapas and dishes are abundant throughout the Mediterranean. During my trip to the Catalonia region of Spain I sampled delicious fried eggplant chips drizzled with honey and several other dips and spreads made with the vegetable. One of my favorites was from a tapas restaurant in Barcelona – a baba ganoush topped with sesame seeds and honey, served with carrot and celery sticks and warm pita on the side.

This tapa would be excellent served alongside a charcuterie board or other dips. It also pairs well with Cava or tempranillo.

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While there seems to be no consensus about its place of origin, eggplant grows throughout the Mediterranean and can be grown in the Pacific Northwest under the right conditions. The plant likes heat, but short-season varieties can be successful here. Since eggplant is in season now and was the star of several of the tapas I enjoyed eating in Spain, I chose this simple recipe to share.

I’ve been making this caponata for years; it’s a simple rendition of the Sicilian dish consisting of fried eggplant and other vegetables, seasoned with olive oil, tomato sauce and capers. This is so easy! I swear the hardest part is peeling the eggplant and that's really not so bad. Just use a paring knife and peel it lengthwise. The peel's a little tough but if your knife is sharp, it'll be fine. This tapa would be excellent served alongside a charcuterie board or other dips and spreads. It’s great on crackers and bread. It also pairs well with sparkling wine (Cava in Spain) or a nice tempranillo (red wine from a grape variety which grows in Spain and Portugal).

As they say in Spain, Buen Provecho (Enjoy your meal)!

Eggplant Caponata Tapa
Serves 4-6

• 3 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
• 1 onion, diced small
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, as desired
• 1 eggplant, peeled and diced small • 1 red pepper, diced small
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 can diced tomatoes (I like to use the ones with Italian seasonings but you can also use plain crushed or stewed tomatoes. Drain and add some dried basil and oregano if using crushed or stewed tomatoes.)
• Extra tomato juice from canned diced tomatoes, as desired
• 2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons agave nectar syrup or your favorite sweetener, sugar or honey

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper as desired. Sauté onion, stirring several times before covering and letting cook for several minutes. Uncover and stir another time or two until onion is softened and lightly browned.

Add eggplant and another couple tablespoons of olive oil, maybe more if it seems dry, and sauté until eggplant is moist and softened. Cover after a few minutes and remove cover and stir frequently until completely softened (this may take 10 minutes or longer).

Add red pepper, garlic and tomatoes. Simmer for another 5 or 10 minutes, covered. Check and stir frequently and add extra tomato juice if mixture begins to dry out too much. Stir in capers, vinegar and sweetener. Taste and season with more salt and pepper or more vinegar or sweetener as desired.

Serve with baguette, crackers, pita bread and/or veggies of any kind. Sliced cucumber, red pepper and celery sticks are great dippers for this caponata.

About The Author

Donna Britt

Food writer, food stylist, recipe tester, cookbook editor, podcast producer/host are a few of the creative hats Donna Britt wears. Donna loves to hike, paddle board and spend quality time with family and friends. Oh, and she also collects cookbooks and cast iron cooking vessels.
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