Saturday, 25 June 2016

Caponata. By Anna del Conte.

Eggplants in a Sweet-and-Sour Sauce.
Caponata, a Sicilian creation, appears in many different versions throughout the island.
The dish can be garnished with tiny boiled octopus, with a small lobster, with shrimp, or with bottarga (the dried roe of the mullet or tuna fish), a speciality of Sicily and Sardinia

Serves 4
700 gr eggplants
vegetable oil for frying
the inner sticks of 1 celery head, coarse strings removed
7 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, very finely sliced
225 gr canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp white-wine vinegar
1 tbsp grated bittersweet chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
4 tbsp capers, preferably in salt, rinsed
One third cup large green olives, pitted and quartered
2 hard-boiled, free-range eggs

Cut the eggplants into 1-2 cm cubes.
Heat 2-3 cm vegetable oil in a skillet.
When the oil is hot, add a layer of eggplants and fry until golden brown on all sides.
Drain on paper towels, sprinkling each batch lightly with salt; repeat until all the eggplants are cooked.

Wash and dry the celery and cut into pieces the same size as the eggplants.
Fry in the oil in which the eggplants were cooked until golden and crisp; drain on paper towels.

Pour the olive oil into a clean skillet and add the onion.
Saute gently for about 10 minutes until soft.
Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is cooking, heat the sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan.
Add the chocolate, capers, and olives and simmer the mixture until the chocolate melts.
Add to the tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes longer.

Mix the eggplants and celery into the tomato sauce.
Stir and cook for 20 minutes so the flavours of the ingredients blend together.
Pour the caponata into a serving dish and leave to cool.

Before serving, cover the caponata with the hard-boiled eggs which have been passed through the smallest holes of a food mill, or pushed through a metal strainer.

Caponata is one of the recipes in Anna del Conte's Gastronomy of Italy (Pavilion Books, ISBN: 1862051666, 29.95).

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