Caponata is one of the great Sicilian vegetable dishes, often eaten as a relish alongside pork roast or fish. The eggplant-based recipe features a wonderful sweet-and-sour taste, one of the hallmarks of Sicilian cooking—a combination of sugar and vinegar that provides a tingling push-and-pull sensation in the mouth. In my family, we often ate caponata as an antipasto, spooned over toasted bread, and used any leftovers for wonderful sandwiches. It can be eaten hot, cold, or at room temperature, making it the ultimate vegetable dish for a casual party.
In a Large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the celery and sauté until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and sauté until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, capers, and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the caponata to a bowl, garnish with the basil leaves, and serve.