Planning a hike, or just a stroll through the park? Either way, a picnic is the original cheap date, and we’ve got the perfect sandwich to bring along for the ride. Caponata is a Sicilian sweet-and-sour eggplant salad that’s laced with olives and finished off with fresh basil. This salad is ideal for a picnic, since the touch of vinegar gives it a pickled, summer-y appeal, and because the taste may even improve after it’s been toted around at room temp for a few hours. Here, we stuff the caponata into sturdy bread and top it with chickpeas. The result is a filling sandwich that’ll give you enough energy to climb back down a mountain, or just ride your bike a few blocks home.
Caponata Picnic Sandwich
Cost: Approx. $1.75 each
Makes: 6 sandwiches
Prep Time: 1 hour
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus olive oil in a spray bottle)
1 large eggplant (about 1 1/4 lb.), diced in 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 rib celery, very thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
15 oz. can crushed tomatoes (about 1 1/2 cups)
Fresh black pepper
1/4 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Focaccia bread or ciabatta rolls
1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (a 15 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
Vegan mayo (I recommend Vegenaise brand)
Fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the eggplant on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat. Arrange eggplant in a single layer, and spray with olive oil for good measure. Bake for about 40 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes or so and spraying with a little extra oil.
In the meantime, preheat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent (around 3 minutes), then add celery and cook for 5 more minutes, until onion is lightly browned. Add garlic, and sauté 30 more seconds or so. Sprinkle in the sugar and cook for about a minute, tossing to coat. Mix in the tomatoes, black pepper, and olives, and cook for about 10 minutes, mixing often. Add in the red wine vinegar and salt to taste. Keep covered until the eggplant is done roasting. When eggplant is ready, toss it into the tomato mixture and blend well. Transfer to a bowl, and let cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to meld.
To assemble sandwiches:
Spread the insides of your bread with a little mayo, and scoop on about 1/2 cup of caponata. Place 1/4 cup of chickpeas on top and smush them onto the mixture firmly. Top with a few fresh basil leaves, close sandwich, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. It will keep for at least 8 hours.
-Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Photographed by Emily Kate Roemer
Food stylist: Khalil A Hymore
This article originally appeared in the June/July issue of BUST. Subscribe!