Caponata (Sicilian: capunata) is a Sicilian eggplant (aubergine) dish consisting of a cooked vegetable salad made from chopped fried eggplant and celery seasoned with sweetened vinegar, with capers in a sweet and sour sauce.
Numerous local variations of the ingredients exist with some versions adding olives, carrots and green bell peppers, and others adding potatoes, or pine nuts and raisins.
There is a Palermo version that adds octopus, and an aristocratic Sicilian recipe includes lobster and swordfish garnished with wild asparagus, grated dried tuna roe and shrimp. However, these last examples are exceptions to the general rule of a sweet and sour cooked vegetable stew or salad.
Today, caponata is typically used as a side dish for fish dishes and sometimes as an appetizer, but since the 18th century it has also been used as a main course.
The etymology of the name is not entirely known. Some suggest it derives from the Catalan language, others that it comes from the caupone, the sailors' taverns. The dishes described by Wright would suggest that in the past the Sicilian dish was similar to the Genoese capponata.
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