Nov. 9, 2012 3:37 pm
Updated: Nov. 9, 2012 7:42 pm
Caponata, an interesting mix of vegetables offset by a taste of a sweet and a sour (agrodolce in Italian). The sweet is usually sugar and the sour a high quality red or white wine vinegar depending upon the type of caponata being made. Since my poor wife
was ready to cry uncle from all the meat I've been making I decided to make a pure veggie dish which also helped to clean out the fridge. The gist of caponata is that the vegetables are always fried in oil, usually olive oil and then combined with the agrodolce
and served at room temperature. The caponata seems to get better if everything is allowed to sit for some time so the flavors can meld together.
For mine, I used a mix of what I had on hand: golden cauliflower, Sicilian olive mix (with pits), fennel, chantenay carrots, celery, scallions, yellow onion, grape tomatoes, zucchini and pine nuts. Many times caponata is made with eggplant, but I'm not really
an eggplant guy and we didn't have any anyway.
- Peel and cut the carrots crosswise into small slices.
- Cut two large celery stalks into a 1" by 1/4" dice on the diagonal.
- Pit the olives (8-10) and chop into large pieces.
- Cut the cauliflower into large florets
- Core the center seedy portion of a small zucchini and cut into a 1/2" dice
- Chop scallions crosswise into an 1/8 dice
- Chop 1/2 medium yellow onion into small dice
- Cut fennel bulb crosswise into small rings, discard tough outer layer and green stems
- Cut 1/2 pint of the grape or cherry tomatoes into 2-3 pieces each
- Prepare about 1/4 cup of roasted pine nuts
- In a cup, add 1 1/2 TSP of sugar to 3 TBSP of Cabernet red wine vinegar
In addition you will need a few tablespoons of tomato passata ("passed tomatoes"), or tomato paste with a bit of water or tomato sauce.
To roast the pine nuts, put them in a small saucepan (non-stick if you have it) over medium heat, shaking the pan from time to time to distribute. Remove when the pine nuts start to color.
First, blanch the cauliflower and carrots separately for about a minute in boiling water and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Cut the cauliflower into smaller pieces. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil, enough to coat the pan. Add the scallions, onions, olives and celery and cook until everything goes soft but don't let them start to brown. Maybe 5 minutes or more, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add a few tablespoons of the passata, paste or sauce. The amount is personal preference depending upon how much tomato taste you want to add. Start with 1 or 2, then adjust by taste and color. If you added paste, you want to add a bit of water as well. Bring
to a boil then add the vinegar/sugar combo (mix well first) and bring to a boil again. Let cook for 30-60 seconds and then remove to a large bowl.
In the same pan, add enough olive oil to make a 1/4-1/2" layer and bring to 350 degrees or until a small piece of your veggie thrown in begins to sizzle. Usually you would deep fry the vegetables but I only use a thin layer of oil and mix. Add the fennel slices
and let cook for 2 or more minutes, until the fennel starts to brown and becomes soft. Remove the fennel with a slotted spoon to a dish covered with paper towels. Repeat with the zucchini and then the carrot slices. I just add another layer of paper towels
on the same dish.
Add the fried and now drained vegetables to your bowl from the first part and mix in the roasted pine nuts and sliced grape tomatoes. Toss well and cover allowing the caponata to slowly cool to room temperature and for the flavors to meld. Serve with slices
of crusty bread.
Naturally, there are oodles of possible combinations for a caponata, dictated mostly by what you like and don't like. This also makes a great antipasto.