Monday, April 4, 2016

Caponata

A few weeks ago, SP showed up with Chris Fennimore's recipe for Caponata. He was, of course, interested in making it because it is chock full of vegetables. Caponata is one of those dishes I had not heard of/tried as a child. Once I became interested in cooking and subscribed to cooking magazines, suddenly, caponata seemed to be everywhere.
I always ripped out the recipes, but never made it. I'm not sure why. I certainly never ordered it out at a restaurant because of garlic fear. Some caponata recipes use a lot of garlic. I've seen so many versions of caponata. Some recipes are just eggplant, some are eggplant and zucchini, the eggplant can be fried or roasted or grilled, the tomatoes can be fresh or canned, some add herbs like basil or thyme or mint, some red and/or green and/or peppers, some add grated carrot or diced fennel, some add raisins. There are endless versions, endless possibilities, endless ways to customize your caponata to your liking.

We started with this version. It's a darn tasty version. We adjusted the recipe (omitted the garlic & red pepper flakes). Here's what we put in ours:
Eggplant, green olives (with pimiento), celery, onion, zucchini, green pepper, tomatoes, capers, vinegar, pignoli. It's very easy to make - just a lot of frying. You need a big pan.
Start with the eggplant and cook it in olive oil until it starts to brown all over.
Add onion, pepper, and celery, cook until the onion softens, then gradually add in the other ingredients: zucchini, tomatoes, olives, and the seasoning (sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper) plus capers and pine nuts.
 All the vegetables soften and become mushy, but don't let them get too mushy.
 Caponata can be an appetizer, but we ate ours for dinner atop toasted crusty bread from Mediterra.
This version was delicious. It's a lot of nice textures and flavors. The pine nuts add a little crunch, the capers and olives saltiness, the zucchini and eggplant are pretty soft but the onion and green pepper are a bit firmer. SP sprinkled red pepper flakes atop his since he likes a little heat.
This is something I definitely see us making again and again, especially in summer. Once everything is cooked, let it cool, store it in the refrigerator, and pull it out at dinner time. No need to re-heat. We like it on toasted bread, but you could eat it over pasta or rice or quinoa. Over anything.

Caponata

(our version of Chris Fennimore's Caponata)

1/4 c olive oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled & diced, salted and drained in colander
1 onion, diced (we used small, not medium, size onion)
1 green pepper, diced
1 celery stalk, peeled and sliced
1 medium zucchini, diced
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, diced
1/4 c green olives
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp pignoli nuts
salt & pepper

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with half the olive oil. Pour into a large, non-stick skillet, and saute over medium-high until the eggplant browns on all sides. Add the onion, pepper, and celery, adding more olive oil if necessary. Cook until the onion softens but doesn't brown. Add the zucchini, more olive oil if necessary, and cook 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Stir in the olives, sugar, vinegar, and capers. Stir in pine nuts (pignoli). Season with salt & pepper.

Ingredients we omitted:
2 cloves garlic (add with tomatoes)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (add with vinegar & capers)

Note: To save time, next time I might not peel the tomatoes, and I didn't worry too much about seeding them.

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