Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sweet & sour Caponata

Hello from sunny Sicily! Yes, spring is on and summer is coming soon. Weather is getting warmer and warmer and it’s time for my favourite vegetables and food. I can start dreaming about caponata, parmigiana, peperonata, granite and all those unique dishes that give Sicilian cuisine a unique savour.

For Sicilian cookery tradition caponata means summer, eggplants, magic and delicate equilibrium between sweet and sour, flavours that get mixed up without confusing. Don’t ask me what caponata means. I tried to find out but the etymology is not that clear. It might come from the latin word capare meaning chopping up ingredients to mix them in a kind of alchemic way of cooking. It might come from the Italian name of the cat fish capone which was originally used in the past in the haute-cuisine of the Monsu’, the French chefs cooking for the noble Sicilian families. Common people couldn’t afford to buy fresh fish, quite expensive even at those times, so they customized the recipe using fresh season vegetables. It is not a difficult dish, it takes only a lot of time to cook it properly, but I would suggest you how to save time without losing flavor. There are many versions of caponata, I will give you mine, a family recipe.

Serves 4 pax

2 medium-size aubergines
2 medium-size yellow and red peppers
1 big or 2 medium-size onions
the core of 1 celery
about 20g of capers
100g of stoned green olives
about 30g of raisins
about 20g of pine-seeds
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp of sugar
1 coffee cup of vinegar (balsamic is fine)

1. Prepare the most important ingredients first: cut the aubergines in small pieces , use a bowl with cold water, pour the aubergines and let them rest for about 30 minutes , then stir them. Clean the peppers and cut them in small pieces, be careful not to leave any seeds. Cut the onions in small pieces as well as the celery and the green olives.

2. Use a frying-pan to brown each ingredient one per time: first the aubergines, second peppers, then onions.

3. Mix aubergines, peppers and onions and add all ingredients (except sugar, vinegar and bay leaves). Let everything cook for about 10 minutes giving astir now and then.

4. Add vinegar, sugar and bay leaves, give a stir and let everything cook for about 5 minutes.

5. Let everything rest and cool as it must be served cold.

Tricks & tips
- For a light version put all ingredients in a baking-pan and cook put in the oven for about 30 minutes at 240°C stirring every 10 minutes. Then, add vinegar, sugar and bay leaves, give a stir and let everything cook for about 5 minutes.
- You can also use zucchini as an additional ingredient.
- Caponata is usually a side-dish for meat and fish but, if you use no vinegar and no sugar you can also use it to season pasta (absolutely short pasta such as penne).

Buon appetito!

© Text and pictures by
Doriana Briguglio

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