Back in his restaurant, Il Cociniero, in the hotel Katane Palace, Carmelo shows us how to make one of Sicily’s most important dishes: A baroque caponata. . . and caponata is one of the signature dishes of Sicily, made with eggplant, and peppers, and tomatoes, and many other ingredients depending on where in Sicily you find yourself. A baroque caponata has a lot more ingredients and. . . we’ll find out what they are. It’s a dish, Carmelo says, that brings together all the different influences on Sicilian cuisine, Arab, Norman, Spanish, and products that arrived after the discovery of America. No one knows what the word caponata means, but it’s related to pisto from Madrid and ratatouille from France in which there’s also this play between vegetables and agrodolce—sweet-sour. There are many variations, a winter version that uses vegetables from the mountains, a spring version that uses asparagus and peas, there’s a version that includes lamb, and even a version that adds lobster to the dish. This is a noble version, a late summer version, that requires 16 hours of preparation. It’s flavored with fresh mint, a little bit of raw garlic, and a few fried capers. Some people add green olives, and some add a little anchovy. What makes it baroque is the addition of other ingredients, like black eggs or drunken eggs, hardboiled eggs marinated in a mixture of 70% red wine and 30% aged wine vinegar; chocolate; and then I add certain seafoods, like these red shrimp, an anchovy, and a few mussels.

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