Joe Brancaccio opened Brancaccio’s Food Shop five years ago in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, near to where his Italian grandparents lived when he was a kid. The 600-square-foot prepared foods store offers whatever Brancaccio feels like cooking that day—soul-satisfying dishes like $6 rotisserie chicken, cavatelli bolognese, and an eggplant caponata sandwich layered with eggs, fresh ricotta, and tender broccoli rabe.

The Brooklyn chef has been making the same Southern Italian caponata recipe for 15 years. Caponata is a sweet, salty, and vinegary mixture of eggplant, onion, celery, capers, raisins, and olives that’s typically served hot or at room temperature with fish—but we love it just as much as a sandwich condiment, or simply piled onto a piece of toasted bread.

It’s foolproof. Get the freshest ingredients so you can’t fuck it up.

“It’s foolproof,” says Brancaccio about his caponata recipe. “Get the freshest ingredients so you can’t fuck it up.” Apart from fresh produce, the chef says the secret to good caponata is buying imported flavoring ingredients, including Sicilian capers (Marinella brand, if you can find it), Sicilian honey, and D. Coluccio & Sons extra virgin olive oil.

Bring the magic of Brancaccio’s food shop into your own home with this chunky eggplant caponata.

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How to Make Caponata à la Brancaccio’s

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggplants, cut into 1 inch cubes (leave the skin on)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch dice
  • 1 small Spanish onion, cut into 1 inch dice
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1 inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon capers (Brancaccio suggests the Marinella brand from Salina, an island north of Sicily)
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
  • ¾ cup Greek pitted olives, sliced lengthwise in half
  • ½ cup tomato puree (Brancaccio recommends Marinella brand)
  •  ¼ cup red wine vinegar (or to taste)
  •  1 tablespoon Sicilian honey
  •  2 tablespoons Sicilian extra virgin olive oil (Brancaccio recommends D. Coluccio & Sons)

Procedure:

1. Roast the diced eggplant in a 375°F oven until tender.
2. Heat olive oil in a large sautee pan over medium-high heat. Add the celery, onion, and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and soft.
3. Add the red bell peppers, roasted eggplant, golden raisins, olives, and toasted sliced almonds to the pan, then stir in tomato puree and honey. Let simmer until the vegetables are soft and the contents have reduced and thickened.
6. At the end, add a splash of red wine vinegar to achieve a sweet and sour balance.
7. Season with Kosher salt to taste. Let cool slightly and serve.

Pro tip: Caponata tastes even better when you let it sit for a day.

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Brancaccio’s Food Shop is located at 3011 Fort Hamilton Parkway in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

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