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helenjp

Caponata

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Caponata...perfect "cut and come again" food for summer, sharp and rich enough to stimulate and satisfy heat-jaded appetites.

How do you like to make yours? More on the sharp and fresh side, or more on the rich and fruity side?

I've discovered that I like it with not too much celery - an accent, rather than a main ingredient.

A little carrot helps the sweet/sour equation to balance with more complexity to balance the multiple sour notes.

Pine nuts - I'd rather scatter them on at the last moment.

Anchovies - take 'em away, I want my caponata WITH fish (home-preserved sardines, grilled sardines, or other full-flavored fish), not tasting of fish itself.

Oil - is more really better? Some people roast or steam their eggplants, and I suspect that deepfrying them and then dousing in boiling water might work well too. This aspect interests me, as the paterfamilial tum is sensitive to too much oil or fat.

Saveur, based on an older recipe

Standard recipe - Carluccio

Standard recipe - Wright

Caponata is obviously deeply embedded in the eGullet brain:

Sicily, cook it and eat it

TongoRad makes caponata

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The first time I really liked Caponata it was done as a puree on a crostini as an amuse. There are so many things in there that aren't favorites, but all blended together it was a Wow

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Great minds think alike!

I was just thinking about caponata the other day, and was about to start searching for a recipe.

I like to skimp on carrots and go heavy on the olives, and go easy on the sweetness. Well, I would if I'd ever made it, but I'm always too afraid to end up with a crap load of caponata that tastes crappy. That happens with ratatouille all too often (and zucchini are so expensive in Japan!), so I'm gun shy.

I'm going to have to experiment when I return to Japan. It's too easy to buy good caponata in Canada, so I don't bother with making it here.

Of the recipes above, are there any that really blow you away? Or is there another source I should be looking at?

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I think "standard recipe - Carluccio" about does it for me - not too elaborate, but covers the basics. That's because I think of caponata as an appetizer rather than a relish. Wikipedia on caponata was useful too!

Those little Kagome sachets of tomato paste are just right here (no "overcooked" taste) - I dislike canned tomato in caponata (too dominating) and prefer to add some fresh tomato and cook it down.

Zucchini - who needs it! Some people use garlic, I think prefer to, but don't always. Rule of thumb - total quantity of fried aubergine should be equal to or greater than the volume of combined other ingredients...according to me!

Things yet to try:

Fennel instead of celery. I like the sound of this!

Sundried tomato. Maybe...

Eringhi - Costco arrived a short train ride away, and with them came big boxes of eringhi. I believe a winter caponata is called for, and I'm considering drying some aubergine to a half-dried consistency to go with it.

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Haven't made it in a while, but it's a good thought for this time of year. I never use celery or carrots--mainly eggplant, onion, red bell pepper, and a few plum tomatoes, all sauteed in olive oil with garlic, some oregano and basil, salt and pepper, a little red wine vinegar, and usually olives, sometimes capers at the end.

Pine nuts as a garnish are a good idea. Haven't done that before.

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I noticed most recipes call for green olives--why is that? Are green olives more common in caponata-making areas, or are they really better in the dish?

I'll probably use black olives, but if there's a compelling reason to use green, I'll try green (or maybe half and half).

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I think the green olives do make a difference - they are tarter tasting.

By the way, it occurs to me that slightly unripe tomatoes or even slightly unripe green grapes may go well in this.

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One of the keys to caponata is the preliminary cooking of the ingredients separately, as in sauteeing the eggplant by itself, the onion by itself, the celery by itself, and then the blending together of the ingredients into a mellow stew, with tomatoes (fresh or canned), raisins, capers, olives (classically Sicilian olives), vinegar, and a bit of sugar.

The addition of pine nuts and/or anchovies is certainly optional.

But, carrots, zucchini, fennel? I suppose you could still call it caponata, but nata in my book.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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One of the keys to caponata is the preliminary cooking of the ingredients separately, as in sauteeing the eggplant by itself, the onion by itself, the celery by itself, and then the blending together of the ingredients into a mellow stew, with tomatoes (fresh or canned), raisins, capers, olives (classically Sicilian olives), vinegar, and a bit of sugar.

The addition of pine nuts and/or anchovies is certainly optional.

But, carrots, zucchini, fennel? I suppose you could still call it caponata, but nata in my book.

Really? Jarred caponata (usually called "antipasto" in Winnipeg) often has carrots in it, and I've had homemade caponata with zucchini, too.

Of course, the addition of zucchini has always led to my confusion of caponata vs. ratatouille. I always thought they were pretty much the same thing based on my experience with them in Winnipeg.

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I checked a few trusted sources and saw no carrot. Including Middione in The Food of Southern Italy, Tornabene in Sicilian Home Cooking, Simeti in Pomp and Circumstance and Willinger in Red, White & Greens.

I'll go with that.

Of course, while caponata may help comprise an antipasto, antipasto in and of itself does not equal caponata.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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One of the keys to caponata is the preliminary cooking of the ingredients separately, as in sauteeing the eggplant by itself, the onion by itself, the celery by itself, and then the blending together of the ingredients into a mellow stew, with tomatoes (fresh or canned), raisins, capers, olives (classically Sicilian olives), vinegar, and a bit of sugar.

The addition of pine nuts and/or anchovies is certainly optional.

But, carrots, zucchini, fennel? I suppose you could still call it caponata, but nata in my book.

Really? Jarred caponata (usually called "antipasto" in Winnipeg) often has carrots in it, and I've had homemade caponata with zucchini, too.

Of course, the addition of zucchini has always led to my confusion of caponata vs. ratatouille. I always thought they were pretty much the same thing based on my experience with them in Winnipeg.

Heh--this thread is giving me a food-memory flashback: one of the little treats my mom turned me onto when I was a kid were the little cans of Progresso's version of "eggplant appetizer" (it said "caponata" in small print underneath). I dunno how authentic it was, and suspect it wouldn't have held a candle to fresh-made, but it was intense-flavored, oily, salty, tart and sweet simultaneously, and I loved it. I was sad when, years later, I discovered Progresso stopped making it.

But then, even later than that, I set about making my usual ratatouille one day, got a lazy-attack, and decided to roast the vegetables rather than saute them. I let the onions and red bell peppers especially get really caramelized. When I put everything together and tasted, I had a sorta Proustian flashback to those little cans of caponata. I think it was the sweetness and texture of the onions and peppers that did it.

From these admittedly random experiences, plus the linked recipes and others I've seen, I'm theorizing that the difference between caponata and ratatouille could be described as partly one of degree: caponata would seem to have more water cooked out of the vegetables, and thus a denser texture and more intense flavor. It also looks like some of the traditional recipes for caponata involve some texture contrast (celery, pine nuts, etc.), a boosting of the sweet, salt, and sour components (sugar, vinegar, olives), and more oil--often a lot more.

I don't know that I personally, these days, would want to make caponata with hugely more oil than I use in ratatouille, but I would enjoy the saltiness of the olives and a little celery contrast. Mmmmm ... now I know what I'm cooking this weekend!

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I dunno, but in my mind the two are as different as night and day.

Ratatouille bursting with the flavors of zucchini, eggplant and tomato, bright and shiny.

Caponata, on the other hand, dark, briny, salty, sweet and sour. A classic agrodolce.

I too, remember those tiny little cans from Progresso - quite tasty and my dad used to love it on a cracker with his Martini.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Made some for dinner tonight. Wonderful flavors.

My version is a mixture of several different recipes. We love it.

Tonight's was especially good as the eggplant had come from a friends garden and had only been picked an hour before cooking.

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Weinoo, Dave, how do you make your caponata?

The only place I saw carrots mentioned was on Wikipedia (I should know better, but there you are) and knowing my Iranian friend's love of carrots in everything, the nature of caponata meant that I just had to try it.

Regarding fennel...I can't help wondering whether the "original" celery is really the big-stemmed variety we have now, or a soup-celery, or something equally strong tasting...maybe even the leaves more than the stems ???. Don't know enough about celery varieties in Italy to even speculate fruitfully, but have always thought of the modern celery as more of a cold-climate plant.

Celery in Greece - if this is similar to what was referred to elsewhere as the "green stringy celery of Sicily", perhaps it would be worth using the leaves as well as the stems, or using soup celery if possible?

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