I have tasted my first Caponata in a nice traditional restaurant in Catania (Sicily). The dish was so good, I ended up literally licking the cup that was used to serve it and asking for some more. As for the restaurant, named I Crociferi (the Crusaders), it was something special. Lets set aside the fact that the food was very good, and the selection of fresh fish and sea food was absolutely out of this world (which is pretty normal for Sicily), the place itself was memorable. Imagine being sent back in time for, say, 40 years or so… Large hall (30-40 tables) with tall arches separating it to a number of areas. The tables, made of dark wood, were covered with flawlessly white cloth. A memorable experience…..
Caponata is a widely prepared salad in Sicily, heavily based on eggplants. We’ve tried many versions of it and all other ingredients could vary (sometimes it would have some local flavors, depending on the are of Sicily you are in). Here’s what I managed to taste in the majority of them: tomatoes (of course), tomato paste, olives (green or black or both), capers, red pepper, chili pepper, vinegar (wine vinegar). Almost in every traditional Sicilian restaurant, you’d get a version of this salad with local bread.
When preparing mine, I was trying to emulate the most memorable one – the one from I Crociferi. It definitely isn’t identical, but quite similar and, regardless to authenticity, very tasty. Every time I am making this dish, I start remembering the vacation and the restaurant, so for me, its always a double pleasure 🙂
(For half-a-liter of salad)
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 medium-sized eggplants
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp of small capers (salted)
7-8 green olives
2 tsp. tomato paste
50 ml. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
I wanted to prepare this recipe for a long time, but somehow didn’t find the time for it. Recently, when cleaning the small table in the living room, I got my eyes on it, and decided that it was time.
What can I tell about the result? Very tasty (in a distinct Mediterranean style). Meat and eggplants is a fairly common combination. Sometimes we even add some eggplant into kebabs/cutlets to make them more juicy. So, this dish doesn’t offer anything “conceptually” new. The upside is that it is really tasty. Even the lack of spice doesn’t affect the result, since the eggplants make good companions for the meat. If someone wants to spice this up, adding cumin or thyme could work really well here. This is a very quick and tasty dish, that could be prepared for dinner in a very short time.
(For baking form, 28 centimeters in diameter)
1 pack of puff pastry dough sheets (much better if it is with butter)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion
500 gr, ground beef
800 gr. eggplants pulp (approximately 4 medium-sized eggplants)
3 tbsp. pine nuts
2 tbsp. bread crumbs
Butter for “greasing” the baking form
Spring is coming, gradually bringing warm weather, and this means that its time to update the menu and replace “heavy” winter soups with light and cold summer ones. Here’s one based on eggplants. Making this soup is very quick and if the weather suddenly becomes less warm than anticipated, it can actually be served hot as well.
The tastes combination is classically Mediterranean – eggplants, mint, goat yogurt and chili peppers….
(For 6 regular soup-bowls or 16 small servings, like the one illustrated above)
3 large eggplants (or 500 grams of grilled eggplant “flesh”)
500 ml. goat yogurt
500 ml. water
2 garlic cloves
100 gr. goat cheese – similar to non-aged/young Sainte-Maure
1/2 chili pepper
Mint leaves (amount can be varied, roughly take half-a-bunch or mint branches)