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PostMon Feb 10, 2020 10:29 pm 
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Here you go, Katie:

About 25 years ago, I had to work a gig in Medford, and had dinner at a little Italian place called Rudolfo's. Alongside the antipasto was a little scoop of something that was absolutely delightful, but I had no idea what it was.
When I got back home, I called Rudolfo's on the phone and spoke with Art, the owner, and asked him what that reddish stuff was that was served with the antipasto.
He called it "Caponata".
I asked him if he would give me the recipe, and as he was calling orders out and hollering back and forth to one of his cooks I began furiously taking notes.

Art's Caponata recipe:

Fry some Onion in some Olive Oil.
Chop and dice some Eggplant and brown in the oil.
(Art said they used half an Onion for two Eggplants.)
Add some marinara, some garlic, a little celery, some capers, some oregano, some black olives, a little sugar, and a bit of balsamic vinegar.

A couple weeks later, I was up at PCC Co-Op in the deli department and bought some of their Caponata.
I asked them for their recipe, and they gave me a list of the ingredients, but not even a hint as to proportions or procedure:

Eggplant
Roasted Red Pepper
Stuffed Green Olives
Olive Oil
Garlic
Tomato Paste
Sugar
Balsamic Vinegar

After many years and many trial-and-error experiments, I have learned there is more than one way to make a good Caponata. Sometimes the key to success is improvisation, so bear that in mind as you read this, as you may wish to tweak the recipe to suit your own taste.

This is how I made a batch last night, and I thought it turned out quite well:

2 large eggplants
2 large red bell peppers
1 large sweet onion
4 sticks celery, cut up into small pieces
1 small can sliced black olives
1 small can tomato paste
12-15 fat cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Slice off the ends of the eggplant. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds and white pith. Peel the garlic cloves and the onion.
Lightly coat the eggplant, peppers, garlic, and onion with a little olive oil and bake in a 300 F oven for about an hour and a half, until soft.
Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit.
Peel the eggplant and peppers and cut into small pieces. Cut the garlic cloves and onion into small pieces.
In a large pot, saute the celery and onion in the rest of the olive oil with the oregano, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper until the celery starts to soften a bit.
Add the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar and reduce heat, stirring so that the tomato paste doesn't scorch. Sprinkle the sugar in and mix well.
Remove the pan from heat and gently stir in the eggplant, peppers, garlic, and olives. Put into bowl, allow to cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Serve with a good bread or crackers.

As should be clear from the first two recipes, you can vary the ingredients: green olives instead of black olives, capers or no capers, garlic or no garlic, etc. If you look at Caponata recipes online, you will see they're all over the place, but they all call them the "Classic" Caponata recipe.

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