Is it really bruschetta if I make my guests do the work of assembling bread with topping? Or is it just caponata with a side of bread? This was another experiment I foisted upon my guests on Saturday. On the upside, the recipe was quick to prepare – probably 30 minutes of cooking time, plus chopping time and chilling time. On the downside, it made a lot of caponata – probably 4 cups all told, definitely more than I needed. But I used the leftovers to make a spaghetti pie, and it could just as easily be incorporated into a more saucy pasta application post-bruschetta-ing, if extras abound. The capers and olives give it a briny, almost sweet flavor, and in a way, I wish the eggplant was more prominent, although I know eggplant is relatively flavorless.

The recipe I adapted this from called for golden raisins, and I’ll be honest. I have a problem with raisins in otherwise savory dishes. I have this memory of eating cooked spinach with raisins when I was a kid and it was so disgusting. Yuck. Keep your currants out of my swiss chard, and your raisins out of my caponata. So if you like raisins, apparently they have a place in this recipe. Just not in my heart.

I would probably also add garlic to this recipe if I make it again, because garlic makes everything better, and I think it could have used a spicier note in the background. Come to think of it, I think I’ll add red pepper flakes next time too. In any case, here’s the recipe as I made it, which was still pretty darn tasty.

bruschetta with caponata
(adapted from Gourmet)

4-1/2 c. 1/4-inch dice unpeeled eggplant (about 1 medium eggplant)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/3 c. finely chopped celery
1/2 c. chopped pitted green olives
3 T. chopped drained bottled capers
1/4 c. red-wine vinegar
1 T. sugar, or to taste
3 T. walnuts or pine nuts (if you can afford them!), toasted lightly
3 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leafed parsley leaves

In a heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over moderately high heat until it hot but not smoking, in it cook the eggplant, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until it is tender, and transfer it to a bowl. To the skillet add 2 more tablespoons of oil and in it cook the onion and the celery over moderate heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the olives, the capers, the vinegar, the sugar, the nuts, and the tomatoes and cook the mixture, covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it is cooked through and transfer it to a bowl. Stir in the parsley, let the caponata cool, and chill it, covered, for several hours or overnight. Season the caponata with salt and pepper.

Slice a baguette diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees (or under the broiler) for 4 minutes or until lightly toasted. Brush the toasts on one side with the oil, and sprinkle them with salt to taste.

Scoop your caponata onto your toasts with impunity!