Bite into the hearty caponata at Relish.

Image: Corine Michel

Back when I cooked regularly, ratatouille was a common wintertime lunch. It wasn't too difficult to chop some eggplant, tomato, pepper, and squash, maybe add some chickpeas, and throw it all into an oiled pan. A little side rice never hurt, either. 

If only I knew then about caponata, its Sicilian cousin. 

Caponata is a celebration of Sicilian ingredients. The eggplant stir fry (of sorts) is often made with tomatoes, olives, capers, pine nuts and raisins, plus vinegar to add sour notes. It's hearty and texturally splendid, and a healthy dish for the colder winter months.

For its winter menu, Relish Restaurant and Bar is channeling the Sicilians by adding caponata and putting its own twist to it. Here, executive chef Dustin Teague places the vegetable melange on slices of crispy, rustic bread slathered with creamy ricotta. The caponata skews acidic thanks to a generous helping of tomato sauce, but the chopped eggplant and squash provide savory texture. A few raisins bring sweetness, and chopped pine nuts deliver crunch. The slices are topped with basil.

This is the kind of winter meal I can get behind. It's healthy-ish, layers its flavors well, and happens to be colorful and delicious. 

Butternut squash cavatelli at Relish.

Image: Corine Michel

Relish has added a bunch more items to the menu for winter, including a just-as-hearty butternut squash cavatelli with a zesty pork sausage, and a favorite of seafood lovers, a cioppino in a tomato fennel white wine broth. I enjoy the addition of salmon on this one. And I might just rely on Relish to make this one—it's a bit more time-consuming.

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Relish Restaurant & Bar

$$ American/New American 2810 Westheimer Road