Caponata

Caponata - a week of recipes to use a monster batch; pasta, lamb, on toast, potatoes, pizza.
And even how to turn it into Brinjaal Masala.
 
Caponata. It’s an easy sweet & sour Sicilian Aubergine stew - start by finding a SIMPLE recipe that suits and getting hold of the ingredients.

I saw a Calabrian chef on telly recently use 5 pans and multi-process it to deathIn order of Pans used:

  1. blanch celery in salted boiling water for a few seconds and refresh in a bowl of iced water
  2. deep fry the aubergine and then drain
  3. make a reduction of vinegar, sugar or honey and tomato puree
  4. fry the garlic in olive oil then add mint and turn off the heat
  5. toast pine nuts

take a bowl and mix celery and aubergine, pour over the reduction, then add the garlic and mint to the bowl, top with pine nuts , than oregano.
 
What a palaver. Alternatively if you have limited time and/or kids and/or a small dishwasher and/or can’t be bothered trashing your kitchen then below is an approximate from Jamies Italy because its relatively easy and all done in 1 pot.
 
I have listed some of my “ideal world” preferential ingredients but I never have all of them in the house together.
 
2 big aubergines - roughly cut into large cubes. Normal black are fine but the purple and white striped graffiti aubergines they look cool and are longer and thin so a better visual on the finished dish. And the skin holds together the flesh if you forget about the stew on the stove because the kids are going mental.
 
lots of dried oregano - a jar if you have to [check it’s not tasteless grey dust] better from those little bushes which they sell in speciality shops. Mexican is strongest followed by Greek then Italian [particularly Sicilian].
 
2 medium onions - chopped into postage stamps. Any old onion works for me, red is recommended for sweetness.
 
A massive bunch of fresh Parsley – including stalks finely chopped and preferably flat leaved.
 
A crazy splash of vinegar - the recipe states herb but I just have red or white or sherry or cheap balsamic or cider and once even rice.
 
An equal; amount of something sweet - honey, sugar, agave, whatever sweet is in the cupboard
 
tomatoes - the recipe states fresh but I just use a tin, if possible a tin of Calabrian cherry tomatoes.
 
1 fresh chilli - or equivalent dried, flakes, chipotle, jalapeno in brine in a jar. Harissa is fine and Tabasco will do. Any hot sauce.  
 
a big handful of olives - preferably green and roughly chopped. I used the Spicy Olives once as I had no chilli.
 
Small handful capers - salted if possible, don’t rise them just use the salt as seasoning as its packed with flavour.  If you ever see capers from Pantelleria [an island South of Sicily with great dessert wine] buy them as they are the best in the world and have a magnificent aroma
 
Handful raisins or sultanas - Australian Lexia are plump and sweet but now increasingly diverted to wine production so anything except currants; the crunchy spider bodies from the 70’s.
 
Handful pine nuts - long and resinous for Catalonia are the pinnacle but Chinese from the supermarket are fine and I’ve never suffered from pinemouth.
 
How to do it;

  1. Hard fry the aubergines in a really big pot in lots of olive oil [with a touch of sunflower/rapeseed/peanut or any other high smoke] until they darken and soften, c.5 mins.
  2. throw in the oregano, then the onions and cooked it down on a medium heat. c.10 mins.
  3. go mad with the parsley stalks and most of the leaves and once it darkens, let loose with the vinegar.
  4. Once the steam dissipates add the sugar and then the tomatoes and stew it for at least c.10 mins.
  5. Dump in the finely chopped chilli and the chopped olives. Chuck it around a bit.
  6. Add the capers and sultanas, chuck it around a bit more.
  7. Top with pine nuts and go mad again with the parsley leaves and plenty of black pepper.
  8. let it cool slightly and then season to taste as its hard to tell when its piping hot .
  9. pile it high and eat greedily

Gets better and better on subsequent days until it looks like it might escape from the fridge on its own at which point you can curry it.
 
Things to do with Caponata;

  •  stir it through pasta and grate over pecorino. or parmesan, or grana. or cheddar.
  • top it with feta and bake it until the feta softens and eat with crusty sourdough.
  • fry up some halloumi dusted with oregano and serve them together as a mezze.
  • use it as a bed for oven cooking lamb; can be fatty, chunky slow cook with a lid on or lean and pink quick hot roast no lid.
  • mash it up and then build a tower [or just fill a gratin dish] with alternating layers of really thinly [i.e. food processor] sliced potatoes and bake.  
  • a side dish for grilled white fish or roast or cooked chicken
  • bury a chewy steak underneath and ignore th asfct that a lot of british beef is tasteless
  • does not make a nice soup
  • once its been hanging around for a bit too long it can be revived and transformed by stir frying with some strong curry paste and a big handful of coriander.  

Enjoy!

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Italian, Olives, Recipes, Lifestyle