If you are searching for a new appetizer or hors d’oeuvre, try this Caponata.  It is similar to a tapenade but with a Mediterranean twist.  Caponata is flavorful and nutritious, and makes a great spread on hearty crackers or toasted French bread.  Serve with Pietra Santa Pinot Noir or even a full-bodied white wine.

1 cup olive oilpinot_noir_strawberries

1 cup diced celery

1 medium-sized unpeeled eggplant cut in ¾ inch cubes

1 large onion, chopped

½ cup wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

16 oz. canned, whole Roma tomatoes- drained, and chopped (reserve juice)

½ cup tomato juice (reserved from above)

1 tablespoon capers, drained

¼ cup sliced green olives

2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

¼ cup pine nuts

Salt to taste

Cube eggplant and place in a colander.  Lightly salt the eggplant – after approximately 20 minutes pat dry with paper towel. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large frying pan; add celery and cook, stirring often, until tender about 7 minutes.  Remove celery from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add eggplant to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring until it is lightly browned and tender about 10 minutes. Add the onion and cook until soft but not browned. Remove eggplant and onion and set aside. Add wine, vinegar, sugar, tomato water and tomatoes (be sure to squeeze out any juice from tomatoes before placing in pan).

Cook over medium heat, stirring until a sauce is formed. Return the celery, eggplant and onion to the pan and stir into sauce. Add capers, olives, and basil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add pine nuts and salt to taste, remove from heat, cool then chill.

Caponata is best served at room temperature, so remove it from your refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving. Spread over a hearty cracker or bread.    Pairs with:  Pietra Santa Pinot Noir