By MANDA HUDAK, for the Flathhead Beacon

Dish comes from the southern Italian island of Sicily and capitalizes on their natural sources of eggplant and peppers

All of us here at FVCC are grateful for the support expressed by our community during our Festival of Flavors scholarship fundraising drive last month. What a tremendous demonstration of the importance of supporting education in our culture.

One of the events we produced was a dinner titled Sweet and Savory featuring dishes by FVCC’s baking and pastry instructor, Chef Deborah Misik, and me. Chef Misik and I designed the menu to include sweet and savory elements in each course of the dinner. I adapted the traditional Italian Caponata for our opening hors d’oeuvre. It is a classic example of agrodolce (agro – sour, dolce – sweet) where the goal is to layer flavors using acid and sugar in various forms.

Caponata comes from the southern Italian island of Sicily and capitalizes on their natural sources of eggplant and peppers along with dried fruit and marinated items for the sweet and savory components. This dish can be used as a dip or served over grilled or roasted vegetables, fish, chicken or pork. The size of the vegetable cuts can vary based on your menu application.  In this case, I chop the vegetables very finely so that they are easy to eat on a crouton, but they can be cut larger as a relish or sauce. Be creative and adapt the recipe using your favorite sweet and savory flavors – after all, recipes only get better through adaptation.


• 1 small eggplant, diced

• 1 tsp. salt

• 2 red bell peppers

• 1 Tbsp. olive oil

• 1/2 stalk celery, diced

• 1 medium yellow onion, diced

• 1 Tbsp. olive oil

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar

• 1 Tbsp. capers, drained

• 1/3 cup white raisins, chopped

• 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

• 2 anchovies, minced

• 1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves, chopped

• 1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

• 4-5 basil leaves, chopped

• Asiago cheese, finely shredded

• Garlic croutons (Thinly sliced baguette brushed with garlic-infused oil and toasted in oven)

1. Toss eggplant with salt and let sit in strainer for half hour. Lightly squeeze eggplant to release additional juices.

2. Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add eggplant and bell pepper and cook for 6-7 minutes until lightly brown. Resist stirring. Remove and set aside.

3. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add celery and onion. Cook until tender without browning. Add garlic and stir to soften for 1 minute.

4. Add vinegar, capers, raisins, red pepper flakes, anchovies and thyme to onion celery mixture.   Reduce the liquid by half and pour over eggplant and pepper mixture. Season with freshly ground pepper.

5. Garnish with pistachios, basil and cheese and serve on crouton, grilled or roasted items as well.

Manda Hudak is the Savory Chef Instructor at The Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College. For more information about the program, visit