Question on a Type of Italian Food.
My grandma used to always have this stuff she called "gabba-la-dine". It came in a can and had a sweet taste with a mix of peppers and other stuff in it. I dont know how its actually spelled, just how it sounded when she said it. Ive tried to look in a lot of Italian shops, but I get really crazy stares when I ask or just cant find it in general.
What you call "Gabba-la-dine", or as my MIL calls it, "gabbanadine", is a Southern Italian corruption of the word caponata. The main ingredient is eggplant, but it also as tomatoes, capers, celery and olives. I haven't seen it with peppers but that could be a regional variation.
Caponata, or Caponatina, in Sicilian, is a wonderful appetizer that's made of stewed eggplant, celery, and olives that has as many recipes for it as there are cooks.
It seems to me that the "G" your grandmother started the word with is similar to the Sicilian-American pronounciation of Capicola: "Gabbagol."
I have seen Americanized versions that use peppers of one sort or another. Some of the bottled/canned versions available in Italian grocery stores has the kinda sweet taste that you recall, but the sweetness should only come from the bit of tomato used in the recipe.
Here's one recipe that's close to what I do but for the sugar:
Here's another recipe that utilizes the sugar again, but adds things like raisins and pine nuts. This is quite authentic.
In any event, I've purchased the Cento brand of canned Caponata appetizer many times when I'm too lazy to go to the trouble of salting and cooking the eggplant and vegetables (and then waiting a day or so for the flavors to mingle). The Sclafani brand is good, as well. Progresso's is too sweet.
TO BUY: Cento's product is one of the great bread spreads found at this website:
To buy a can, click on the "specialties" tab at left. For a case of cans, click on the tab at the top of the page, "by the case." I've bought some great Cento products by the case at this site before -- when I'm too lazy to travel about a half hour to the Italian grocer who carries their line. Finding Cento *tomatoes* is easy in supermarkets (at least on the East coast) but some of their specialties aren't carried in supermarkets.
There's something sublime about the simplicity of the flavors of a good Caponata. The eggplant just becomes a delightful catalyst for the complimentary flavors of the garlic, olive oil, olives, capers and seasonings used. Break out the good bread and you've got a superb appetizer or even a meal, with the right accompaniment.
Caponata is also great to add to the plate for grilled meats and fish.
I hope that the OP finds the Caponatine with the flavor that his/her grandmother's had.