Caponata from 'River Cottage Veg'

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[Photograph: Simon Wheeler]

Caponata is one of my favorite dippy things to whip out for summertime entertaining. A tangy sweet-and-sour melange of eggplant, tomatoes, and briny olives, the dish plays well with summer staples like grilled bread, grilled chicken, and grilled...well, anything. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's version in River Cottage Veg calls for an ingredient I had never thought to include in my caponatas: chocolate. Reading through the recipe, I was surprised by the addition and thought it a uniquely River Cottage thing. A couple of Google searches later returned countless Sicilian recipes that included grated chocolate or cocoa powder for some bittersweet richness. Perhaps it wasn't so surprising after all.

Why I picked this recipe: Had to try this chocolate-laced version of my favorite summer spread.

What worked: The ingredient list may be long, but the balance of this caponata is on point.

What didn't: I thought the eggplant could have used a little more time frying. I ended up needing to add a bit of water to the final simmering stew in order to give it more time on the stovetop.

Suggested tweaks: You could play with the ingredients here if you'd like, but keep in mind that the final dish is supposed to have a bright sweet-and-sour flavor.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of River Cottage Veg to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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