imageMakes 3-4 cups. Recipe is by Cynthia LeJeune Nobles.

Although strongly associated with Sicily, there is evidence that this “agro dolce” (sweet and sour) eggplant dish was created by Arabs who lived in Spain. It was likely first concocted onboard ships, where cooks needed to make use of Mediterranean produce that was close to spoiling. The use of cocoa in caponata is a Sicilian custom.


1 large eggplant


½ cup olive oil

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 medium onion, finely sliced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup tomato paste

2 cups water

⅔ cup red wine vinegar

1 cup roughly chopped olives

½ cup capers

2 tbls. honey

2 tsp. cocoa

¼ cup pine nuts

¼ cup chopped parsley

¼ cup chopped basil

Black pepper

Toasts or crackers for serving (optional)


1. Cube unpeeled eggplant. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. With a weight on top (a skillet with a few cans is good), set aside to drain for 1 hour. Drain and rinse eggplant, and pat dry.

2. Heat ½ cup olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and sauté eggplant until it begins to color. Add celery and onion and sauté until onion begins to brown.

3. Add tomato paste, water, vinegar, olives, capers, honey, cocoa, and pine nuts. Simmer 15 minutes.

4. Add parsley, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or cold as a side dish or an hors d’oeuvre.