Yield: 6 Servings
|Eggplant; peeled * and cut into 1-inch cubes
|Extra virgin olive oil more, if necessary
|Garlic cloves; mashed
|Yellow or red onion; peeled, cut in half, and sliced
|Chopped ripe paste tomatoes such as Roma
|Bay leaves (or more) (break dried leaves in 2 or 3 pieces; finely chop fresh leaves after removing petiole & midrib
|Red wine vinegar, or more to taste
|Small capers OR- chopped large capers
|Pitted kalamata olives OR other brine-cured olives coarsely chopped
|Freshly ground black pepper
|Fresh basil leaves sliced thinly at the last minute
|Toasted pine nuts OR- chopped walnuts
|Chopped fresh parsley
Place the eggplant cubes in a colander and sprinkle them generously with salt. Let stand at least ½ hour; rinse well under cold water, drain, and pat dry with paper towels. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Gradually add the eggplant, stirring constantly. Add more oil as needed to keep the eggplant from sticking. As soon as all the eggplant is in the pan, gradually add the garlic, onion and celery. Cook until hot through but not browned, keeping the heat as high as possible. Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves, vinegar, capers, and olives. Mix well and lower the heat to simmer. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender and the flavor is well developed. Season the caponata with salt, pepper, and additional vinegar as needed. Add basil leaves, nuts, and parsley. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.
Variation: Add chopped anchovies, chunks of fish or shellfish, ham, Italian sausage, or other cooked meat to the vegetables in the last few minutes of cooking time.