This was definitely one of my favorite things that I've made in a while. Before I made the caponata, I knew that I wanted some sort of salty cheese on it, I was thinking ricotta salata but ended up with a really nice feta instead. I started off by salting the eggplant and letting it drain in a colander, something I don't always do, and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure if it's even worth bothering. Next, I diced up an onion and sautéed it in some olive oil with a bit of chili flake for about 4-5 minutes, I then added in about 4 stalks of diced celery and half of a red pepper. After another 4 minutes or so, I removed the vegetables from the pan.
Into the now empty pan, I poured in some more olive oil and began frying off the eggplant. It started to stick to the pan a little bit and I didn't want anything to burn, so I poured in about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and a bit of water and let it all cook together partially covered. When the eggplant was done, I put in about a teaspoon each of anchovy paste and tomato paste. Next, I added in the sautéed vegetables, about a cup of diced tomatoes (canned tomatoes would work fine too), some chopped up capers and green olives, a sprinkling of sugar and some sherry vinegar (it's much more sour than balsamic which is actually super sweet most of the time). The balance of sweet and sour is up to you! It's good to let all the ingredients sit together on a very low simmer for a little while. Before I was ready to serve, I toasted up some bread with a tiny drizzle of olive oil on each slice. When the bread was ready, I pulled it out of the oven and rubbed on a little raw garlic, topped each slice with some caponata and some crumbled feta.
Finally, while I was reaching into the fridge for a bit of parsley, I was sidetracked by the lovely fennel fronds that were poking out of the plastic bag that the fennel was in. I went for them instead of the parsley and they ended up adding a beautifully delicate green fennel flavor that complimented the eggplant and feta perfectly!
Perhaps this was not an entirely traditional rendition of caponata, but it sure did taste good!