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Grilled Eggplant Caponata

This versatile dish can serve as a dip, appetizer, condiment, or side dish. Preparation is a little time-consuming, but it’s worth it — make a big batch!

Serves 6 - 8 as a side dish


3-4 large eggplants, sliced 1/4” - 1/2” thick
3 large yellow onions, sliced 1/2” thick
3 large (or four medium) tomatoes, various colors
48 Kalamata olives, quartered
3 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
3/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
freshly-ground black pepper


The night before you plan to make this dish, trim the ends from the eggplants and cut them into slices 1/4” to 1/2” thick. If you have a mandoline, you can easily cut them lengthwise, which facilitates handling (little circular pieces seem to have a tendency to drop into the grill). Salt both sides of the slices and stack them up in a colander. Put the colander in the sink overnight; if you want, you can put a weighted plate on top to help press the juice out of the eggplant slices.

Before you light your grill, cut the onion crosswise into 1/2” thick slices. Pat the eggplant slices dry, then brush both sides of the eggplants and onions with olive oil. Working in batches, grill the eggplant and onions over direct heat until well marked on both sides. Some charring may occur, but that’s fine because it adds flavor and color.

When they’re cool enough to handle, chop the eggplants and onions into 1/2” pieces and combine them in a large bowl along with the Kalamata olives, capers, garlic, and basil. Slice the tomatoes into 1/2” slices, salt lightly on both sides, and let stand for a few minutes. Dice the tomatoes and add them and the balsamic vinegar to the bowl and toss again.

Sample the mixture, then add salt and pepper to taste; you may also want to add more garlic and/or balsamic vinegar at this point. A splash of olive juice adds a flavorful saltiness, if you’re an olive fan.

Transfer mixture to a covered dish for serving. Ideally, you would let it stand at room temperature for at least a couple of hours before serving so the flavors can meld. This is an excellent Mediterranean-style accompaniment to grilled meats, particularly lamb and beef.

—Mark Finch