A lighter caponata (“al forno”: roasted)
|June 22, 2012||Posted by ameliaps under appetizers, Italian, italy, summer, vegetables, vegetarian|
Summer is here. I like to eat more vegetables and stay lighter. I am sure many of you feel the same way… It’s a time to lighten our burdens, be they physical, mental, geographic (via travel), or dietary.
Growing up in Italy, lunches in the summer were often a “panino” or a salad (ripe tomatoes frequently) and a piece of cheese, most likely mozzarella. Sometimes, it was Caponata on bread crostini. Maybe with a side of anchovies.
Caponata is a lovely sweet and sour dish from Sicily and there are as many versions of it as there are households on the island (some versions include raisins and pine-nuts, some others even add fish, such as swordfish or tuna, or even octopus). It is a summer relish of sun-ripened vegetables, oozing flavors of the land. I like it’s earthy tones. It has some similarities with the Provençal Ratatouille, although Caponata does not have zucchini and has a sweet and sour zing that comes from the vinegar and sugar added at the end. We call this “agro-dolce” in Italy.
My nonna Amelia made a similar version of caponata, the Neapolitan version, called “Cianfotta“, which includes sweet long summer squash, pears, and prunes.
This is a lighter version because ingredients are oven roasted, rather than fried and simmered in batches, as in the classic recipe.
The last two weeks I have been traveling (“on-the-road” out West – pics soon on photo Friday) so I have not eaten my usual home-made meals… and I have missed them. So now that I am back, I am enjoying some healthy cooking, including this lightened up version of a summer classic. We travel to come back home…
What are your favorite light summer dishes?
|A lighter caponata (“al forno”: roasted)||
- 2-3 Italian eggplants (~2 pounds), peel-on, cut in medium cubes (~6 cups)
- 1 yellow onion, cut into thin slivers (~1 cup)
- 1 red onion, cut into thin slivers (~1 cup)
- 2 red and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into thin strips (~2 cups)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (reserve 2 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed off
- 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
- 2 ribs of celery, cut into small-medium dice (about 1 cup)
- 1 small (14 oz.) can peeled Italian tomatoes (“pomodori pelati”)
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Basil, to garnish
- Soak the diced eggplant in salted water for 20 minutes. Rinse, drain, slightly squeeze the water out of them and pat dry with paper towels.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)
- Combine onions, peppers, and eggplant in a large roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil (minus the reserved tablespoons) and toss well to coat everything.
- Bake for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the vegetables are softened, tossing during cooking. Stir in the olives and capers.
- While the vegetables are roasting, blanch (boil in salted water then plunge in ice water) the celery for about five minutes.
- In a small pan, heat the olive oil, then add the garlic and saute until golden, then remove. Add the tomatoes, sugar and salt and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook for a couple more minutes.
- Combine all the vegetables and stir the tomato sauce in.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, with some basil as garnish. Personally, I think it is best the next day, when the flavors have had a chance to get to know each other!
- You can keep the Caponata refrigerated for about a 1 week, just remember to bring it back to room temperature before serving.