grilled eggplant with caponata relish

september 12, 2013

grilled eggplant with caponata relish

When summer’s end robs us of vegetables that peaked earlier in the season, we can always count on eggplant as a farmer’s market lure with its high gloss and firm form.  Its meatiness holds up well to grilling and it marries well with tart or sweet condiments, marinades and sauces.

Here is a variation on the classic Sicilian caponata, a relish often accompanying grilled meats or fish, and a standard component of the antipasto platter.  A crisp tart-sweet relish tops smoky charred  eggplants – use it as  first course, side, salad or light entree.  The relish may be made up to 2 days ahead.  Serve the eggplant shortly after grilling; you lose the crusty exterior if it sits too long.

At the St. Stephen’s Farmer’s Market recently there was a tantalizing array of eggplants at F.J. Medina and Sons.  Stymied by indecision, I chose three varieties.

F.J. Medina and Sons Farm eggplant

F.J. Medina and Sons Farm eggplant : white, neon and zebra

Like many Italian recipes, there are a multitude of variations and all may be considered authentic, depending on whose word you follow.  A comprehensive caponata recipe almost always includes capers (and/or green olives), celery, tomato, pignoli, sweetness from sugar and sour from red wine vinegar. Some recipes include golden raisins, as does mine (and they show up in The Good Eats Company summer eggplant caponata), but you may eliminate them if you prefer.

Grill your eggplant to the desired texture – less time for firm, longer for a creamy interior with an almost collapsed center (but the finished product will not be as pretty on the plate).  Any way you cook this dish, you will have legions of fans, even among those for whom eggplant is banished to the list of vegetables to avoid!

grilled eggplant with caponata relish

grilled eggplant with caponata relish

recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company

serves 3-6


caponata relish
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1/4 cup sweet onion, finely diced
3 T pignoli (pine nuts)
2 T golden raisins
1 T capers, rinsed and drained
1 T snipped fresh basil
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
2 t light brown sugar
pinch crushed red pepper
pinch fine sea salt
one medium clove garlic, grated on fine zester

3 small eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
2 T extra virgin olive oil
one large clove garlic, grated on fine zester
fine sea salt


  1. Combine all caponata relish ingredients and chill, up to 2 days ahead.
  2. Heat grill to medium.
  3. Combine oil and garlic, brush onto cut surfaces of eggplants and sprinkle cut surfaces generously with salt.
  4. Grill cut side down, each half at a 45 degree angle; after 15-20 minutes, turn each eggplant half 45 degrees the other way (to get nice diagonal grill marks) and cook until desired texture.  About 25-30 minutes total will yield tender, yet firm in the center, eggplant.grilled eggplant
  5. Spoon chilled caponata relish atop eggplant halves and serve while eggplant is still warm.

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