Last week I was co-teaching a class at Whole Foods Market with Jordan Ashcraft (the head of the Specialty Department). The Olive Tasting class focused on marinated, brined, pitted and stuffed olives – a true culinary delight and wonder. Jordan shared many facts and stories about the history of olives, the difference in taste between varieties, etc. My role was to cook!

I decided to prepare two recipes, one of which was Green Olive and Eggplant Caponata. This traditional Italian dish is full of delicious vegetables – eggplant, onion, and tomatoes. I thought that adding briny green olives would elevate it to a higher taste bud experience.

Preparing this recipe, I used my usual cooking philosophy – taste as you go, pay attention to the ingredients and enjoy. During the class, the students asked about the recipe and wanted to have a recipe. Below, is my best attempt for the recipe – ingredient amounts and times are approximate.

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 medium eggplants, cubed
1 large red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 tomatoes, cored, diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup basil, roughly torn
salt and pepper to taste


1. In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, add eggplant and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring. Season with salt. Add 1/4 cup water and cover the pot. Cook eggplant until almost tender.
2. In a large sauté pan heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, pepper, celery and garlic. Cook for 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, cooked eggplant, lemon juice, pepper flakes, and sugar. Cook for 25-30 minutes.
3. Once the vegetables are tender, add olives and taste for seasoning. If needed, add more sugar and lemon juice. Cook until the olives are heated through.

4. Remove the caponata off the heat and stir in pine nuts and basil. Serve hot or at room temperature. If serving cold, or the next day, add the pine nuts and basil right before serving.
This makes for a very flavorful and filling vegetarian dish or a side dish. Keep your eye out – soon I will share a recipe using this caponata as one of the main ingredients.