I was born to an English mother and Maltese father. Malta is a tiny island nation situated in the Mediterranean Sea between the coasts of Sicily and northern Africa. It’s where I completed my high school years, and began my career as a chef. I worked at a busy restaurant called Paparazzi in Spinola Bay, making hundreds of pasta sauces to order late into the night.
During this time, my Granny Helen handed me a note card with a Caponata recipe on it. This recipe was given to her by her Grandmother and originated from Sicily. My Granny Helen is an amazing woman, who amongst many other things, survived the onslaught of Nazi attacks during WWII whilst hiding in a bunker with her family in the Maltese capital of Valletta. The Nazis were never able to take this little island despite their continuous efforts. The Maltese are known to be very feisty.
Eggplant is a major player in the making of Caponata, but I had never been particularly keen on it. This recipe changed my attitude altogether.
Caponata is extremely delicious. It is sweet, tart, savory, and nutty. It’s served cold, and is fantastic on some warm crusty bread when the weather starts to warm up.
I decided to add a Northwest touch to the recipe and include a little Cedar flavor and some zucchini bread.
- 2 Cedar Grilling Planks
- 2 Eggplants
- 1 small Yellow Onion
- 4 cloves Garlic
- ½ cup Green Olives
- ¼ cup Capers
- ⅓ cup White Sugar
- ½ cup Red Wine
- ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
- 2 Tbsp. Pine Nuts
- ½ cup Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt and Pepper
- Preheat the grill to 400°F.
- Soak the Cedar planks in hot water for at least 15 minutes.
- Peel the eggplant and cut into ½ inch thick slices. Toss them in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Lay the slices on the planks and set on the grill with the lid closed for 25 minutes or until soft.
- While the eggplant cooks, dice the onion and garlic, add to a saute pan with some olive oil and cook gently for 10 minutes or until very soft.
- Remove the eggplant from the grill and dice into ¼” cubes.
- Add the eggplant to the pan with the rest of the olive oil, and turn up the heat to medium. Add the red wine, balsamic, tomato paste and sugar. Cook for about 15 minutes until slightly sticky and jam like.
- Dice and add the olives, capers, and pine nuts. Cook for 2 minutes, then set aside to cool.
Now let’s make the zucchini bread.
- 2 Zucchinis
- 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
- 1 ½ cups Flour
- 1 Tbsp. Sugar
- 1 tsp. Baking Soda
- 1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder
- 1 tsp. Paprika (preferably smoked)
- 2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano
- ½ cup Shredded Parmesan
- 3 Eggs
- 1/3 cup Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp. Water
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Using a cheese grater, shred the zucchini into a large mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the wet ingredients and continue to mix.
- Butter and flour a bread loaf tin and add the mixture.
- Smooth the top with a spatula and place in the oven.
- Cook for about 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool.
- Serve the chilled caponata on wedges of the bread and top with diced fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh oregano leaves.
This recipe is inspired by the Pacific Northwest, Malta and most of all, my dear Granny Helen Curmi.