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Categories: Salads, Vegetarian

Cantaloupe and Eggplant Caponata (Capunata 'i Meluni e Mulanciani)

"The first day of August is the first day of winter," or so they say in Polizzi Generosa, Sicily. The adage goes back 1,000 years to the time when agriculture became the principle occupation in this mountain community. Throughout the ... Read more

Total time: 25 minutes plus 2 hours standing | Serves 6
Note: The extraordinary combination of flavors in this ancient dish tricks the palate into tasting the eggplant as if it is in the same family as the cantaloupe. It is widely believed that cantaloupe melon originated in the Italian city for which it is named. Literally translated, the name means "singing wolf." It is important that the melon be 3 days under-ripe. A perfectly ripe melon will disintegrate when cooked, and a too green one will have an unpleasant squash-like flavor. The remarkably refreshing flavor of this caponata makes it a perfect summer's antipasto or an accompaniment to simply grilled meat or fish. Serve it with good crusty bread.
  • 1 (2 1/2-pound) slightly unripe cantaloupe
  • 1 or 2 eggplants, about 1 1/2 pounds total
  • Coarse salt
  • Water
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground pepper

Step 1Halve cantaloupe and scoop out and discard seeds. Slice it into 1-inch wedges, remove skin and cut flesh into pieces about 1 1/2 inches long. Place pieces on a platter, uncovered, until needed.

Step 2Peel eggplant and cut it into 1-inch square pieces. Place pieces in bowl, liberally salting each layer. Cover with cold water. Place a plate over eggplant to hold it under water. Let it soak, to leach out any bitterness, 1 1/2 hours.

Step 3When eggplant has completed soaking, drain in colander. Rinse under cold running water to remove excess salt. Pat pieces dry with paper towels.

Step 4Pour 3/4 cup oil into medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, saute eggplant until cooked yet firm, about 10 minutes, turning it with a spatula to prevent burning.

Step 5Remove eggplant with slotted spoon and place it on paper towels to absorb grease. Thoroughly clean skillet.

Step 6Mix together sugar and vinegar. Reserve until needed.

Step 7Return skillet to stove and add remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Turn heat to high and when oil is nearly smoking, add melon. Saute until it gains a bit of color and begins to expel its orange liquid, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add eggplant. Gently turn melon and eggplant with spatula. After about a minute, when eggplant is hot, pour in vinegar in an even stream. Turn again. Let vinegar bubble until its aroma rises, about 1 minute. Transfer caponata to serving platter to cool. Sprinkle with grindings of pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Each serving:
169 calories; 67 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.67 grams fiber.
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