Saturday, January 26, 2008


This story goes back a fair distance. Rocco (a Sicilian), Judy, Madame and I went to eat at Daniele Osteria in Dallas a couple of years back. Good Sicilian food with an especially tasty caponata. I figured it should be possible to deconstruct this, so tried for one of our "Sundays at Four" events. It came out well, but of course I have forgotten what I did.
Fast forward to this year. We came home from shopping to find a jar of caponata that Rocco and Judy had bought in Chicago and left for us. It was delicious.
Ever up for a challenge, I decided to make more. There seem to be a couple of keys to this.
First, cook the ingredients separately. Even though the dish eventually comes together, the major ingredients require different amounts and kinds of heat. For example, the eggplant is fried at a high temperature to get some browning, while the onions and garlic are sweated in extra virgin olive oil to develop flavors, but no browning.

6-8 sticks celery, cleaned chopped into 3 inch lengths
4T Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced finely
some red pepper flakes
1 28 oz can plum tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organic). Keep the juice handy you may or may not need it
4T Capers - rinsed and drained
8 oz olives (green, Sicilian if possible) chopped roughly into quarters
A few basil leaves in chiffonade
2 T neutral oil for frying
1 1/2 lbs eggplant (Italian preferably)
2T sugar
4T red wine vinegar
Salt/pepper to taste

Put the celery into a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes - until tender. Set the celery aside
Meanwhile, in a large pot warm the olive oil gently over low heat, add the onions, garlic and hot peppers.
Drain the tomatoes reserving the juice. Break the tomatoes into a pulp - I used an immersion blender, but you could equally use a food processor or a regular blender.
Cut the eggplants into 3/4" (2cm) cubes. Do not bother to peel them first.
Heat the oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the eggplant and fry tossing occasionally until fairly browned.
Meanwhile drain the celery and cut into fine dice
When the onions are translucent, add the tomatoes. Stir and then add the chopped olives and capers. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the chopped basil leaves.
Add the eggplant, celery and stir
Mix the vinegar and sugar together and add the mixture to the cooking pot. Stir again, put the lid on and simmer for about 8-10 minutes - until thickened. If it is looking too thick, you can add some of the reserved tomato juice - otherwise make bloody Marys!
Turn the caponata out of the pan into small bowls and chill overnight. Serve inverted garnished with carved olive rabbits, orange slices, basil chiffonade and some sea salt, with fresh crusty bread or crackers

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ymmy -