Caponata is a dish usually associated with eggplant and often served as an antipasti. However, it originally was made with fish. Sicilians make this dish using mahi-mahi or spada (swordfish). When I had this dish in Palermo, it was made with spada and the fish and the spices, savory and sweet seemed to merge the Sicilian and Arab cultures. It was nothing short of delicious. I was fortunate to be able to obtain the recipe.
- 2 swordfish filets
- ¼ cup semolina flour
- 2 cups frying oil – vegetable, peanut
- 2 ¼ cups passata
- 1 tb tomato paste
- 1 onion
- 1 celery stalk
- 2 tbs of green olives – pitted
- 2 tbs salted capers
- ¼ cup raisins
- cocoa powder
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 1 tb sugar
- salt, pepper – to taste
- Place the capers in a cup of water and pit the olives and then cut in half. Peel the onion and finely chop it.
- Remove any leaves from the celery stalk and boil or steam the stalk just until fork tender, not very soft and mushy.
- Once it is cooked, slice the stalk and set it aside.
- Dice the fish filets (1 ½ -2 inches each) and toss them in the semolina flour and mix until thoroughly breaded.
- Heat the frying oil in a medium pot until it reaches a suitable frying temperature.
- Fry the diced filets until a they form a soft crust. Do not put too many fish pieces in the oil at the same time or they will not crisp up if too crowded.
- Collect them with a skimmer and let them rest on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess grease.
- In a large pan heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and brown the onion on medium heat until golden.
- Rinse the capers and shake off the excess water.
- Add them to the pan along with the pine nuts, raisins and olives. Brown for about 5 minutes.
- Taste for salt and pepper and adjust.
- Increase heat to high and add sugar, mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
- Pour in the vinegar and cook until the aroma dissipates, and the vinegar has evaporated 8 – 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, add the diced fish filets, a pinch of cocoa powder, mix well and serve at room temperature.
- Serve as an appetizer on a bed of lettuce with some crusty French bread.