Caponata offers versatility on the dinner menu

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Caponata, a Sicilian dish, is loaded with eggplant, tomatoes and bell peppers, enriched with olive oil. It’s emblematic of that sunny country’s cuisine — and perfect for our late summer meals.

Based on a few inexpensive, common ingredients, it’s a simple, delicious dish. No need to look for an authentic recipe as there are as many versions as there are cooks. You can roast, pan-fry or grill the ingredients, separately or together, and serve it as a side dish, appetizer or entree.

The one constant is its sweet and tangy flavor, with a touch of sugar or honey and spiked with sharp vinegar.

In Sicily, caponata is a kind of savory preserve and often made in quantities to be used throughout the year. The variations are endless. Along with summery vegetables, caponata often contains raisins and pine nuts, capers and green or black olives. Some cooks use fresh tomatoes, while others rely on tomato paste.

In my kitchen, caponata varies depending on what’s at the farmers market. Sometimes nontraditional zucchini and summer squash figure into the mix. It is great tossed with pasta, spooned onto bruschetta, served alongside grilled sausages or fish. Piled onto a crusty baguette, it makes a great picnic lunch.

Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.

Caponata

Serves about 6.

Note: Allow caponata to rest a day or two, in a covered container in the refrigerator, so that the flavors mingle and mellow. Don’t be put off by the quantity of olive oil in this recipe. It may seem like a lot but it’s important to the flavor and richness of the dish. Serve this over pasta, on top of bruschetta, as a side or main dish. It’s best at room temperature. From Beth Dooley.

• 1/2 c. olive oil

1 medium eggplant, unpeeled and cubed into 1-in. pieces

1 small zucchini, cubed into 1-in. pieces

• 2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced into 1-in. pieces

1 c. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

• 1/4 c. sliced pitted black olives

• 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

• 1 tsp. honey

Generous pinch red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Film a large skillet with the oil, then set over medium-high heat, and sauté the eggplant and the zucchini until brown on all sides, about 8 to 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes and olives. Reduce the heat, cover and continue cooking until the peppers are soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the vinegar and, if the mixture seems dry, add a few tablespoons of water. Continue cooking and stirring until the vegetables are very tender. Season to taste with the honey, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Allow to cool and then store in a covered container in the refrigerator for a day before serving at room temperature.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 210

Fat 19 g

Sodium 50 mg

Carbohydrates 11 g

Saturated fat 3 g

Added sugars 1 g

Protein 2 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

Dietary fiber 4 g

Exchanges per serving: 2 vegetable, 4 fat.

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