Caponata with garlic grilling bread: Take a refreshing dip

A few minutes ago, while filling in the “bake vs. buy” information for this post, I discovered that eggplant caponata, purchased online, will cost you a cool $10.50 for a 19-ounce jar.

That’s just about $71/gallon.

WHOA. And you thought gas at the pump was expensive!

As tedious as it is to figure out a buy vs. bake comparison for most of these blog recipes, it’s a good self-reminder. Trying to save money? Don’t go out. Go in – to the kitchen. Open your cupboard. Peer into the fridge. What can you make out of what you’ve got?

Plenty, if you know how.

Take caponata. If you’ve never enjoyed it, caponata is a tasty Italian “relish” made of slowly sautéed eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and garlic, mixed with capers, oil-cured black olives, and sliced fresh tomatoes. Served at room temperature, it’s the perfect spread for crostini, or a dip for wedges of pita bread.

Are you likely to have all of those ingredients on hand? At this time of the year, I often do. Fresh local tomatoes and eggplant are just starting to appear at our farmstands. I keep onions and fresh garlic in the cupboard; capers are in the fridge. Oil-cured olives are a pricey treat. But a little go a long way, so a container of those is usually tucked away in the fridge, too.

Caponata? I’m there.

And the bread to go with it? I’ve been baking bread for so long, I don’t even think about it anymore. So please, those of you who are just learning (or want to)‚ ride along on my coattails. I’ve got a secret: yeast bread isn’t scary. If you use the right kind of yeast and flour, you’re 90% of the way there.

And reading this blog regularly will take you the rest of the way.

Buy vs. Bake – it’s not just about the money. It’s about creating, and sharing, and making the world around you a better (and tastier) place.

Let’s start by making caponata – at about 1/4 the price and 10 times the flavor of what you’d purchase. And then we’ll make the garlic grilling bread to go with it.

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Seize the (summer) day: even vegetables that are available year-round seem fresher in the summer, don’t they? The base for our caponata is a medium eggplant (about 1 pound); a medium-large onion (12 to 13 ounces); a pound of fresh tomatoes; and 4 large garlic cloves (more or less, to taste).

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Chop the eggplant into 3/4” cubes, sprinkle with salt, and place in a colander or strainer.

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Cover with plastic wrap, weigh down (I usually use a half-gallon jug of olive oil, or something equally weighty), and let drain for 30 minutes. See the liquid it releases? Recipe books say this drains the eggplant’s “bitterness.” Though I’ve never found eggplants particularly bitter, I usually follow this step; I figure it can’t hurt.

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Heat about 1/3 cup olive oil in a large skillet, and add the eggplant.

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Cook, stirring frequently, till the eggplant browns.

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Chop the tomatoes into 3/4” cubes, and the onions into 1/2” dice.

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Add to the eggplant in the pan, stirring to combine.

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Meanwhile, peel the garlic, which is easily accomplished by pressing down on each clove with the flat side of a knife; the peel will slip right off.

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Mince the garlic, and add it to the mixture in the pan. Stir to distribute.

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Cover the pan, and cook gently, over medium heat, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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The vegetables will give up their flavorful juice.

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Remove the cover, and raise the heat so that the vegetables are bubbling quite vigorously. Cook for about 15 minutes, till the juice is just about all absorbed/evaporated. Remove from the heat, and stir in 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste), and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Be aware that you’re going to be adding salty capers, and you’ve already salted the eggplant once; so you may not need to add any salt at all.

Can you leave out the black pepper? Of course. Can you leave out the sugar? It won’t taste as good, but of course.

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When the caponata is lukewarm, stir in 3 tablespoons drained capers; 1/2 cup oil-cured pitted black olives; and 2 medium plum tomatoes, thinly sliced.

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Stir to combine…

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…and transfer to a bowl.

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That’s it – you’ve made caponata. A delicious partner for bread. If you’re not going to use it within several hours, cover the bowl and refrigerate it.

Speaking of bread –

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Let’s make some garlic grilling bread. I often start with dried minced garlic, since it’s less likely to affect yeast bread’s rise. (Did you know fresh garlic and ground cinnamon both slow down yeast? ’Tis true.) Here I’ve mixed 2 teaspoons of dried minced garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I’ll let this sit on the counter overnight. Using fresh garlic? You can skip this step. Also, you can skip the garlic entirely and use garlic oil.

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We’re going to make a soft grilled bread, pita-like in texture. Let’s start by corralling all of the ingredients in a bowl:

2 teaspoons dried or fresh minced garlic mixed with 2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup (6 ounces) lukewarm water
2 cups (8 ½ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (5 7/8 ounces) semolina
1 tablespoon King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver OR Baker’s Special Dry Milk OR nonfat dry milk
1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor; optional, but tasty
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Don’t have semolina? Substitute an equal amount of all-purpose flour.

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Use the flat beater paddle of your mixer to combine all of the ingredients till they hold together.

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Switch to the dough hook, and knead for about 7 minutes on medium speed, till the dough is smooth.

Can you do this in a bread machine set on the dough cycle? Absolutely. Can you do it by hand? Of course. Whatever kneading method you prefer is the one you should use.

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Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl (or an 8-cup measure, as I’m using here), and let it rise for 45 to 60 minutes, till it’s very puffy.

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Like this – WOW!

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Divide the dough into four pieces, and place them on four greased pieces of parchment, about 9” x 12” each. You can easily make this size by tearing a half-sheet piece of parchment in half.

Can you put them on waxed paper or plastic wrap instead? Sure, go for it; the parchment police won’t nab you.

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Flatten the pieces of dough so they cover most of the parchment; they’ll be about 1/4” thick (or thinner). Spray them with olive oil spray, or brush lightly with oil, so they don’t dry out.

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Let the breads rise for 30 to 60 minutes, while you heat your outdoor grill to about 400°F.

Can you bake these in the oven, rather than grilling them? Absolutely. They won’t have the grill marks or the charred/smoky flavor, but any port in a storm, eh? Preheat your kitchen oven to 425°F.

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I have an electric grill with a thermometer. Lucky me, huh?

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Here’s one of the breads after about 45 minutes.

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Pick up the bread, paper and all, and turn it onto the hot grill. Peel off the paper. If your grill has a cover, put it on.

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Bake till the bottom is nicely browned. Don’t worry, the dough sets quickly, and won’t fall through the grill cracks.

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Turn it over, and grill till the other side is brown. Adjust your grill’s temperature if it seems to be darkening too quickly. Or too slowly.

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Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

If you’re using your oven, simply place the bread with its parchment onto a hot oven stone, or onto a baking sheet. Bake till it’s golden brown and puffy. Since I didn’t actually test this I don’t know the exact amount of time, but I’d guess about 15 to 20 minutes at 425°F.

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Serve the bread warm, or at room temperature, with the caponata. Caponata is best served at room temperature, so if you’ve had it in the fridge, give it a chance to warm up.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Eggplant Caponata with Garlic Grilling Bread.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Via Amazon: Sole Mediterraneo® Caponata Sauce, with tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, black olives, and capers, 55¢/ounce

Make at home: Eggplant Caponata, 13¢/ounce

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Laura

    Would this garlic grilling bread work well as grilled pizza crust? We’re grilling pizzas this weekend, and I’m looking for the best crust recipe.

    It would indeed work well as pizza crust – go for it, Laura. PJH

    Reply
  2. Jen

    That looks really good, except that I’m violently allergic to eggplant. Makes my throat swell shut. I might try modifying it to use zucchini, or maybe roasted peppers…

    Zucchini works just fine, Jen. Or how about Portobellos? They’d be nice and meaty… PJH

    Reply
  3. Vladimir

    I would like to point out that 19 oz at $10.50 a jar is more like $8.84 a pound – or, indeed, around 55¢ an ounce.

    Thanks, Vladimir – all fixed. PJH

    Reply
  4. Bonnie

    Since this just added, I haven’t made either item yet (but I will – SOON!!), but I wanted to thank you for the info aboout fresh garlic inhibiting the yeast.
    I know that ground cinnamon affects yeast, but I had no idea that fresh garlic would do it also. That explains a problem I had a while ago – made a bread that I had made before with good results – made it again, but added freshly chopped garlic to the dough before it’s first rise – it took forever to get to a point where I could put it in the oven! I assumed that I had made a mistake somewhere along the line (it was soon after the garlic-free batch – same batch of flour, yeast [which I keep in the freezer], etc), so nothing else had changed.
    I am ALWAYS learning something new here!!
    Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Susan in Las Vegas

    Er, can you re-check your math? 19 ounces is 3 ounces OVER a pound, so $10.50 for 19 ounces comes out to $8.82 a pound… Still pricey, but not quite so much “pump shock”.

    Thanks, Susan – could you tell I was doing this math at 11 p.m.?! Actually, it should be $71/gallon, for the gas comparison. Now fixed. Thanks again – PJH

    Reply
  6. Beth

    Thanks for reminding me of this, PJ. I made it a few years ago (using John Thorne’s recipe), and it was quite tasty on crackers. I finally had success with eggplant this year in my garden, and the only thing I could think of to make was eggplant Parmesan (well, nothing wrong with that, is there?!!) and ratatouille (I know I misspelled that bad boy!). Glad I saw this before I went to the grocery store. I’m sure I need olives.

    Beth, you’re a master speller – ratatouille is just right. I think. :) PJH

    Reply
  7. Beth

    PJ, this is off topic, but could I trouble you with that recipe of hummus you gave me a few years ago, purty please?? Or is it the same recipe as the one posted on your website (calls for three 15-ounce cans of chickpeas. I can’t find my recipe anywhere. Thanks.

    Beth, it’s so off the cuff – but 1 big can of chickpeas (garbanzos) – like, the Progresso size can. Drain, save the liquid. Put the chickpeas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and copious fresh garlic cloves in the food processor. I use about 6 huge ones, and the garlic about knox your sox off. Process; drizzle in about 2 tablespoons bean liquid to get it going. Then drizzle in olive oil till smooth. I just made a batch 2 days ago. Wonderful with all kinds of fast summer dipping breads. ENJOY – PJ

    Reply
  8. Lish

    We just made grilled pizza this week, and are planning on the grilled garlic breads this weekend, and I just wanted to say that parchment is far superior to the waxed paper. I made 6 crusts and only had enough parchment for 5. I oiled the parchment and the waxed paper equally, but when I went to transfer the crust from the waxed paper to the grill the crust had stuck completely, and I ended up having to throw it out! I was so disappointed! I would only use the parchment from now on. Can’t wait to try the garlic bread, as soon as I get my parchment paper!

    Reply
  9. itsworthalook

    Hi PJ – love your posts!
    Can’t wait for my egg plant to come in.
    Hummus – I’ve been dying to make this, the only thing holding me back was that I could not find Tahini, you don’t use Tahini?

    Nah, too expensive, and too niche. Tastes just fine with simply chickpeas, salt, cumin, garlic, and olive oil… PJH

    Reply
  10. Candie

    Has anyone “canned” the caponata? Could the product of this recipe be put into a canning jar and get a 20 minute boil to preserve it? Am I hoping for a bumper crop of eggplant or what? This particular recipe may not have enough acid in it to be safe. Why not try freezing it? Molly @KAF

    Reply
  11. Oonagh

    I actually don’t like the taste of tahini, love sesame seeds and sesame oil. but tahini just doesn’t do it for me, plus you have to buy such a large quantity for a few tablespoons so it’s wasting money and taking up fridge space. I actually grind about 1/2 c salted cashews before adding chickpeas and then add about 2 tsps sesame oil for flavor with the olive oil. It makes a bit more textured hummus that is very popular.

    Would fresh garlic in the olive oil and butter mix (not in the dough) I use for garlic monkey bread retard rising.? I haven’t noticed a problem. I usually use garlic powder in yeast doughs. Because the garlic is not in the dough, you don’t have to worry about it inhibiting the yeast. Molly @KAF

    Reply
  12. Brenda

    Oonagh, maybe your problem is your tahini? I used to use Joyva tahini, but it’s no longer available in my area. Tried a couple other brands and did not like them at all. Used each once, then threw it away. Joyva isn’t bitter like any of the others I’ve tried. Finally broke down and ordered it online. It seems to keep “forever”, and I never refrigerated it. Plan to make a batch of halvah one of these days to take in to work.

    Reply
  13. Kimberly D

    Do you grill the garlic bread on charcol grill? And if I used this for a pizza crust do I grill the garlic bread first than add toppings? If so how long, if raw with pizza fixings, how long? I have been wanting to do this on a grill, but didn’t know the how long and raw or cooked dough. Thanks love your blogs……can you tell me how to make homemade pita bread?

    OK, here’s pita; and grilled pizza. Use the method shown in the blog with the garlic grill bread recipe, you’ll be all set. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  14. keith

    Could someone please help me out. I’m interested in making this garlic grilling bread and would like to use fresh garlic (instead of garlic oil). So my question is- when do I add the minced/grated fresh garlic to the dough so I don’t inhibit the yeast? Thanks.

    Some resources suggest adding garlic in oil. Others use fresh garlic and there is no effect on the yeast. To be cautious or kind to the yeast, add the garlic just before the kneading stage. Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  15. tkmah

    Is this dough supposed to be stiff during the kneading stage?

    Not overly stiff – take a look at the photos of the dough. It should hold its shape well, but not be “gnarly.” Hope this helps – PJH

    Reply
  16. islandtraveler

    I’ve made this recipe two times using my 3lb bread machine dough cycle, as well a twice using your company’s garlic grilling bread mix. Of course, the bread mix came out perfect; however, this recipe seems to come out stiff & dry. Tonight I added 2 tbsp. of water since the dough looked very dry during the kneading. After the dough cycle finished I pulled out the dough, divided it onto two half-sheet pans. The texture was very stiff & dry as I tried to stretch the dough. Looking at your pictures, I can say my dough never got smooth while it was being kneaded during the dough cycle. Could it be because my container is so large, it’s for a 3 lb loaf? Could it be because of humidity above 80%?

    This dough is indeed on the dry side, but it sounds like yours is drier than it should be; and I wouldn’t say your bread machine being large has anything to do with it, while the humidity would only make it softer, not drier. My guess is the way you measure flour. If you scoop it out of the container and level it off, you’re probably using quite a bit more flour than we used in this recipe. Please take a look at our tips on measuring flour for some helpful information. And never be afraid to stray from the recipe if your dough doesn’t look right, for whatever reason; adjusting dough consistency with water or flouris something we do in the test kitchen here all the time. Hope you continue to try this recipe, until it’s as good as the mix! PJH

    Reply

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