Saturday, August 2, 2014

Caponata--Sicilian Eggplant Salad

It seemed to me that caponata recipes featured in every Italian cook book and on every culinary blog. But when I served it a couple of times recently to my friends no one knew caponata, everyone though liked it very much. Particularly, my vegetarian friends enjoyed caponata as a rich and satisfying dish.

Ever since I discovered that caponata was not as popular as I thought, I have been making it very often. It can be prepared even a day ahead which makes it a very handy party dish. It can be served alone or with grilled meats.

Before I left on vacation I bought some beautiful Sicilian eggplants at my market and made caponata for an upcoming party. Then I realized that one of the guests was Sicilian. I rather avoid cooking Italian food for Italians as they are usually very particular about how the dish should taste.

When my guest saw a bowl of cooked eggplants with tomatoes, he obviously recognized right away his national dish. I was anxiously waiting for his verdict. Just after the first bite of caponata when all the flavors melted in his mouth he raised his thumb with approval. And as a proof that my caponata was really good he took a second portion. By the end of the evening a big bowl of caponata disappeared to the last piece, complemented by all the guests.

So today I share a recipe for caponata that is Sicilian-approved.


4 medium eggplants,
1 large onion, chopped,
1/4 cup golden raisins,
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 Roma tomatoes, peeled,
1/4 cup sugar,
1/4 cup red wine vinegar,
1/4 cup green pitted olives,
2 tbsp capers,
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley,
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil,
4 tbsp olive oil.

1. Cut off and discard the green ends from the eggplants, slice the eggplants, sprinkle with salt, and put aside for an hour.
2. Use paper towel to sponge up the juice that eggplants released. Cut each slice into small cubes.
3. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil until very hot. Add eggplants and fry them for about 10 minutes, turning frequently, until slightly brown. Transfer eggplants to a bowl.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil on the same frying pan and sauté the chopped onion until transparent. Add garlic and fry for another 2 minutes.
5. To peel the tomatoes, cover them first with boiling water for a minute. Drain them, then cover with cold water. Peel them off and cut into cubes. 6. Add tomatoes to the onion and cook for about 3 minutes. Add everything to the eggplants. Season with salt and pepper.

7. On the same pan heat together sugar with vinegar until sugar dissolves. Add raisins, capers and olives. Add to the pan eggplants with tomatoes and bring everything to boil.Turn off the heat.
8. Transfer eggplants to the large bowl. Add chopped parsley and basil and cool completely. Serve cold.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dip from Roasted Peppers and Walnuts

Dips can nicely enhance your dinner party starters or add flavor to whatever accompanies a glass of wine or an apéritif, if this is all you serve. I have been making several different dips recently and noticed that the original ones that are home made are always very popular among my guests.

Today's dip can also be used as a sauce to accompany grilled meats. It comes from the Middle Eastern tradition and is made from roasted bell peppers and walnuts.

I served it with Arabic flat bread or pita bread. It has a distinct taste thanks to the peppers, which should be slightly charred, and a bit crunchy texture because of the generous amount of ground walnuts.

My son enjoyed this dip so much that he used it just as a spread on a grilled pita bread. Any way you choose to serve this dip—on meats, breads, crostini, or pita chips—it is a very satisfying recipe, and it can be entirely made in a food processor.

Roasted Peppers and Walnuts Dip
(Serves 6-8)

4 red bell peppers,
2 garlic cloves,
1 slice of white bread, toasted,
1 tsp chili pepper,
1/2 tsp ground cumin,
1/2 tsp salt,
3 tbsp lemon juice,
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
2 tbsp flat leaved parsley, chopped,
ground pepper to taste.

1. Turn your oven on broil and heat it to 425F. Place the peppers inside the oven and roast them until the skin becomes black. Turn upside down and roast them on the other side.

Place the charred peppers in a paper bag or a container with a lid and let them cool. Peel of the peppers and remove seeds.
2. Place garlic, walnuts, bread, and peppers in a food processor. Pulse until it forms a smooth paste.

3. Stir in the salt, ground pepper, cumin, lemon juice, and oil, and pulse again until all the ingredients blend nicely.
4. Transfer the dip to a bowl, add chopped parsley, mix, and serve.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zucchini Blossoms Omelette--Easy Brunch Idea

Let's then say that this is a kind of lazy post because of the busy time I have before a long trip on vacation. And it is even hard to called today's recipe a recipe. It is more of an idea that I would like to share.

My beloved zucchini blossoms got frostbitten in the late spring. Last year, I had plenty of them, this summer I harvested only a few. Before I had enough to make any dish of them some already turn into small zucchinis and any dish of stuffed blossoms that I dreamed of unfortunately became impossible.

So when last Sunday when I woke up after a long party all I dreamed of was an omelette for brunch. I looked at my only pot of zucchinis and their yellow flowers and decided to make an omelette with them. I fried the blossom with small zucchinis, poured eggs on them, and a delicious brunch was ready in no time. Served with a crisp baguette, it could not taste any better.

Zucchini Blossoms Omelette

4 eggs,
3 tbsp whole milk,
10-12 zucchini blossoms with small zucchinis, if possible,
2 tbsp chopped chives,
2 tbsp olive oil,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Heat the oil in a medium heavy duty frying pan. Spread the zucchini flowers with zucchinis on the oil and fry them on high heat for about 3 minutes per side. Turn the heat down to medium.

2. Crack the eggs and put them in a small bowl. Pour in milk and using a fork whisk them about 10 times.
3. Spread the eggs on top of the zucchinis blossom. Using a wood spatula keep pushing the eggs from the walls to the center, spreading liquid eggs to the wall until the omelette becomes set. Season top with salt an pepper.

4. Using a spatula fold the omelette in half and transfer to the plate. Finish with chives and serve.