Given that a major chunk of my life’s mission is to French toast and ‘casserole’ everything, I’m making a case for this caponata version today. Both French toasts and casseroles are ideal candidates to use up leftover bread. A stale/dried up loaf is actually a good thing in both cases. In French toasts, a dry slice of bread will drink up a lot more of the eggy mixture you dunk it into, without falling apart like a fresh slice would. In this casserole—sans the eggs—the stale bread holds its shape better when topped with the vegetables. So you get good textural contrast between the saucy topping, and crunch from the bread underneath.
Caponata is similar to a ratatouille in that they’re both vegetables cooked in a tomato-based sauce. (Similar vegetables too – aubergines, red peppers, zucchini, onions, garlic, tomatoes). Despite their similarities, caponata is Sicilian and Ratatouille is a classic Provencal summer stew. I make both dishes in heavy rotation and my main adaptations between the two are this: while the base remains the same across both, I use a pesto cheese in my ratatouille. (For the simple reason that I always have pesto on hand; and I don’t always have basil leaves on hand.) The caponata gets a splosh of red wine vinegar for acidity, olives and capers for brininess, and sultanas and sugar for sweetness. And fresh basil (yet to try a pesto version here).
You can make the caponata and serve it with bread on the side of course, but that would detract heavily from said life’s mission. So we’re going to tear them up into chunks, toss in butter and garlic, and quickly bake in the oven to get some crunch. Top with the caponata sauce and basil, crumble over feta, and tuck in!
CAPONATA & GARLIC BREAD CASSEROLE
- 6 slices of sourdough (or other crusty bread of choice)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 30 grams butter
- 1 large aubergine
- 1 red pepper
- 1 zucchini
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 6 large tomatoes
- 12 green olive, quartered
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2 tablespoons sultanas
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
- 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 50 grams feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Handful of Italian basil, chopped
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Chop the aubergine and red pepper into small cubes. Blend tomatoes to a smooth purée.
- Heat olive oil in a pot and add onions, garlic, aubergine, zucchini and red pepper. Cook until the onions and vegetables brown.
- Add the puréed tomatoes, sultanas, olives, capers, chilli flakes, red wine vinegar, sugar, pepper and salt. Cover and cook over a low flame, stirring occasionally, for 30 mins.
- Add the butter to a baking dish. Pop it into the preheated oven for about a minute or so. Once the butter has melted, add minced garlic and mix with your fingers.
- Tear up the bread into bite-sized chunks. Toss them with your hands in the garlic butter. Bake in the oven for 10 mins until they brown and crisp up slightly.
- Top the bread with the cooked vegetables, then the basil. Crumble feta over the top and serve hot.