The Daily Dirt

Cooking “Root to Leaf” in Summer with Steven Satterfield

bookIt’s finally Summer and eggplants are shining all over the place! And they figure prominently in seasonal recipes and market baskets. Chef Steven Satterfield, 2015 James Beard Foundation nominee, had this seasonal crop in mind when he created his own version of the classic italian sicilian caponata recipe. Check out what Steven had to say about this versatile and simple dish featured on the Summer section of Satterfield’s cookbook Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Season that highlights the best the eggplant has to offer. Click here to know more about the chef. Make sure to check this recipe on the bottom of the page.

How does your recipe differ from the original Sicilian caponata? This recipe is definitely non-traditional.  It is my interpretation of a traditional method.  I think there is a shift right now to understanding technique cooking and then applying new ideas or new flavors to the technique to make it your own.  I would categorize this as that style.

Is there a specific variety of eggplant that would go best in this recipe? The italian or globe-shaped eggplants are really best for this because they have the highest flesh-to-skin ratio so they are a little more “meaty” with a higher yield.  The trick for this recipe is to cook the eggplant until it is almost sticky on the palate.  This brings out the sweet and nutty side of the fruit.

What would be the best main dish to pair with caponata? Many things go well with caponata—I love it served warm with griddled chicken, or as a relish served room temperature on toast with goat cheese.  It can also be a great addition to a summer vegetable plate.


  • 6 cups 3⁄4-inch-diced eggplant (about 1 large or 3 small globe eggplants), skin on
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup 1⁄4-inch-diced yellow onion (about 1 medium)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups 1⁄2-inch-diced ripe tomatoes (about 2 medium), juices and seeds included
  • 1⁄4 cup golden raisins or currants
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chiffonade of fresh parsley and mint leaves for garnish

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the eggplant in a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Transfer the eggplant to a wire rack over a pan or onto a layer of paper towels. After 30 minutes, transfer the drained eggplant back to the bowl and toss with 1⁄4 cup olive oil. Spread the eggplant in a shallow roasting pan and cook until slightly caramelized but still intact, with a creamy, almost sticky texture on the inside, 30 to 45 minutes. (Since some pieces will cook faster than others, try a random sampling across the pan.)

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the raisins, vinegar, honey, and black pepper, and stir to combine. Return to a simmer and cook 5 more minutes. Pour the sauce over the eggplant and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt as needed. Allow the caponata to cool and rest about 1 hour. Serve at room temperature, chilled, or reheated. Top with fresh parsley and mint.

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