Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mis-en-Place

Being prepared isn't just for boy scouts. Cooking is a breeze with a little preparation. No scrambling for items in the cupboards while something sticks on the stove. Prepping veggies, measuring herbs and spices, having the right pans on hand, all makes cooking not only easier, but helps to ensure a successful outcome. Take a few minutes and get organized before you start cooking.

I recently decided to turn a medium sized eggplant into caponata, a sweet and sour Sicilian relish. Not only is this one of my favorite eggplant dishes, but it certainly goes a long way toward providing a variety of vegetable servings in one easy swoop.
While the eggplant roasted in the oven, I prepped the other veggies. With all the dicing done, finishing the process by sautéing the ingredients in layers was a snap.



The finished dish offers a variety of presentations.

Initially, we had it as a topping for bruschetta.


The next day, I added a generous helping of caponata to some marinara sauce, while I boiled some multi-grain penne. The vibrant, piquant flavors of the caponata made an excellent foil for the mellow marinara and provided a delicious meatless pasta meal. Caponata is customarily served at room temperature, but it loses nothing by being chilled or heated — such versatility offers the home cook some fast and easy options.
There probably are as many variations to caponata as there are Italian grandmothers. I made one for years following instructions provided by Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet. Recently, the NY Times printed a recipe courtesy of Martha Rose Shulman. I chose to try this version, and love it! Hope you will, too. Follow the above link to the Times site — Andrew Scrivani's image is mouth-watering!
Caponata
one large eggplant, roasted
one medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
1 pound ripe tomatoes, preferably Romas, peeled, seeded and chopped
(I just diced the tomatoes - being a whole foods advocate, I kept the peels and seeds!) jw.
3 heaping tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pitted green olives
3tablespoons wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (more to taste)
2 tablespoons sugar
Freshly ground pepper to taste.
1. Roast the eggplant, allow to cool then chop coarsely.
2. Heat one tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet, then add the onion and celery. Stir until the onion softens, about five minutes, and add the garlic. Cook together for a minute, until the garlic begins to smell fragrant, and add the peppers and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir until just tender, about eight minutes. Add another tablespoon of oil and the eggplant, and stir together for another five minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender. The eggplant will fall apart, not to worry, this is fine. Season to taste.
3. Add the tomatoes to the pan with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of sugar. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan often, for five to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant. Add the capers, olives, remaining sugar and vinegar. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook stirring often, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are thoroughly tender and the mixture is quite thick, sweet and fragrant. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. If possible, cover and chill overnight. Serve at room temperature.

1 comment:

rosalie said...

Hello again, I had the pleasure of meeting you at the library a few weeks ago. I am new to the area and it was nice to get such wonderful information about the library and food from such a nice person. I will definately keep watch on your blog. It is great. I will look for you at the bookstore :o)

Hope you had a great holiday!!

Rosie