Got an eggplant? Cook my Aunt Mary’s caponata

My family comes back to this decades-old recipe time and time again.

Food forum

In the Valentino family cookbook from 1990, my Uncle Tom included a forward from an unknown author about “the joy of growing up Italian”: Those Sunday dinners when everyone squeezed into one tiny house after Mass, the smell of sizzling onions and garlic throughout, fresh-picked tomatoes and basil, how perfectly the fresh loaf of Italian bread sopped up the “gravy” (sauce, that is).

Mostly, the author talked about their whole family getting together, yelling, laughing, cooking, kids, kids, kids, everywhere.

This was also my family to a T, for many years. We always had big, loud Italian dinners. Not a Sunday would go by without someone getting a gravy stain on their shirt, or another lying on the floor after eating too much.

My family is a lot smaller now, and dispersed throughout the East Coast. Many of the people who I consider the heart of our family, including my grandmother, have died. Sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile with the reality that we can’t go back to those times, those Sunday dinners that as a kid, I would find normal, even boring (but always delicious). Now, I see them as the golden years. I miss the house full of voices, my grandmother’s fuzzy hair, the smell of her perfume and how good she made the house smell with her cooking.

But I still have this old Valentino cookbook. It’s like a portal back to those dinners, to my family. One of the recipes we frequently turn to is Aunt Mary Moroco’s caponata, a Sicilian dish of fried eggplant in a snappy, salty tomato sauce. It has 11 ingredients, including the salt and pepper, and many of which you can find in your pantry right now.

On my recent trip back to the East Coast, my mom made that caponata. It tasted like all the times my grandmother had made it, to be served alongside pasta and meatballs, crusty bread and salad. Or scooped into a bowl all by itself for a quick lunch.

It’s easy to make (trust me: I’ve cooked it plenty of times myself), and perfect for eggplant season. Caponata is best eaten cold, hot and every temperature in between.

As always, if you have any well-loved recipes (especially family recipes!) to share, you can email it to taylor.goebel@heraldnet.com.

Aunt Mary Moroco’s Caponata

1 eggplant, skin on and diced small

1 celery stalk, sliced thin

1 onion, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup tomato sauce

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

½ pound green olives, cut in pieces

1 jar capers

¼ cup vinegar

Fry eggplant until softened, about five minutes. Add celery and onion and cook until softened and translucent, about five minutes more. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 10 more minutes, or until the mixture has cooked down and the flavors have melded.

The Forum is always looking for new recipes: Send yours to taylor.goebel@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Food & Drink

Daily Herald food, drink and restaurant reporter Taylor Goebel.
Our food writer bids farewell

Taylor Goebel shares news of her departure, as well as her favorite moments as The Herald’s food & drink reporter.

Food forum
Baked pumpkin is a velvety winter treat, as a side or a main

Pecans, cinnamon, brown sugar and butter liven up roasted pumpkin and other winter squashes.

The crab doughnut at Market in Edmonds is a strange delight, with a sweet and dense glazed doughnut topped with bright and briny dungeness crab salad, nutty browned butter and a shower of smoky bacon bits. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)
This idyllic dining destination is right in Snohomish County

Edmonds boasts fresh seafood, Caribbean-inspired sandwiches, artisan breads, cocktails and more.

Food forum
Too many Thanksgiving leftovers? Make turkey “glop”

Our reader adapted this turkey casserole from an old Betty Crocker recipe.

Rachael Grace Sobczak, owner of Water Tank Bakery, is sharing her recipe for Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Bars Burlington, Washington on October 10, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Signature Dish: Give thanks for dulce de leche pumpkin bars

A Burlington baker shares her recipe for the triple-threat treat using Washington-milled flour.

Della Terra, a Snohomish farm-to-table catering business, is offering a full Thanksgiving meal with hearty Pacific Northwest entrees, seasonal sides and a farmers market salad. (Joanna Monger Photography)
Thanksgiving Day: Snohomish County restaurants open for dine-in or takeout

These Snohomish County restaurants are offering Thanksgiving meals for dine-in or takeout.

Food forum
Easy holiday cranberry cake with hot butter sauce

This tart yet buttery cake is the perfect solution to excess cranberries this holiday season.

A pint of In the Shadows’ HBL — Honey Basil Lemon — blonde ale, which took home a bronze medal in the 2022 Washington Beer Awards. (Aaron Swaney)
Tiny but mighty: These Snohomish County breweries won big at Washington Beer Awards

Check out this year’s Washington Beer Awards winners from Snohomish County.

A quarter of a smoked chicken at The Kitchen at Quil Ceda Creek Casino, with classic barbecue sides.
Smoked chicken’s barbecue flavors dazzle on rainy fall days

You can smoke the bird like they do at Quil Ceda Creek Casino, or prepare it in a conventional oven.

The veggie tofu pho at Phở Thanh Na in Monroe is chock-full of tender-crisp broccoli and carrots, bright aromatics and a light, flavorful broth that acts as a canvas for fresh bean sprouts, herbs, lime, chili oil and sriracha. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)
Good soup: Where to find chowder, pho and more belly-warming bowls

These Snohomish County eateries are the perfect soup stops on a cold fall (or winter) day.

Pot and sweet pies await customers at the newly opened Pie Dive Bar in Snohomish, Washington on May 17, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Order your Thanksgiving pie ASAP from these Snohomish County bakeries

It’s already time to get your Thanksgiving dessert orders in.

Food forum
Warm up with pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Together with the wind and rain, these cookies are a sure sign fall has arrived.