Caponata is a beloved sweet-sour Sicilian dish that brings together eggplant, tomatoes, celery, olives, and capers.
It's usually served as a relish or as a topping for bruschetta. I decided to turn it into a complete meal and use it to top roasted chicken thighs.
I've opted for roasting the eggplant rather than frying, which is both easier when preparing a weeknight meal and a little lighter.
The rest of the veggies are left raw. I love the bright acid of the tomatoes, the fresh crispness of the celery, and the briny goodness that come from the olives and capers. Rounding it all out is the nutty crunch of toasted pine nuts and the bite from raw garlic.
This is one of those dishes where each bite has a little something different to offer.
Tips for making the best caponata
- If you have time, try salting and straining your eggplant up to 24 hours ahead of time. This helps it become extra crispy when roasted.
- Place the pan for the eggplant in the oven while the oven heats so both are very hot when you're ready to roast. This also helps with crisping.
- Choose the summer’s sweetest cherry tomatoes. In this recipe, this is part of what gives the caponata its sweetness.
Sheet Pan Chicken with Roasted Eggplant Caponata
- For the roasted eggplant caponata:
- 1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds), cut in 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon honey or sugar
- 1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 1/2 cup sliced green olives
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- Additional chopped parsley, to garnish
- For the chicken thighs:
- 2 to 2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Prepare the eggplant:
In a large bowl, combine diced eggplant with 1/2 tablespoon salt. Place the eggplant in a colander set inside a large bowl. Strain at least 15 minutes or up to 24 hours. The longer you strain the eggplant, the crispier it will get.
When ready to roast, press the eggplant firmly to squeeze out moisture.
Preheat oven and baking sheet:
Place a large baking sheet on a middle rack in teh oven and preheat to 450°F for 15 to 20 minutes.
Prepare the chicken:
In a shallow bowl, combine chicken with paprika, red pepper, fennel, salt, pepper, and one tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat.
The chicken can also be prepared, covered, and refrigerated overnight.
Roast the eggplant and chicken:
When you’re ready to cook, toss the eggplant with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Working quickly, pull the baking sheet from the oven and place chicken skin side down. Add the eggplant in a single layer around the chicken.
Return the hot pan to the oven and immediately lower the heat to 425oF. Roast for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken skin side up, and roast another 15 minutes, or until the thighs are cooked through and register 165oF with an instant-read thermometer.
Prepare the rest of the caponata:
In a large bowl, whisk together the balsamic and the honey or sugar. Add the cherry tomatoes, celery, green olives, capers, parsley, and garlic. Toss to combine well.
Finish and serve:
When chicken is ready, transfer it to a plate and rest for 10 minutes.
Add the roasted eggplant and the pan juices to the bowl with the cherry tomato mixture, and stir well. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Mix pine nuts into the caponata just before serving so they retain their crunch.
Serve the chicken thighs and top with the caponata. Sprinkle with extra parsley.