Sunday, March 25, 2012

I Could Become A Vegetarian...

...if all vegetables tasted like caponata. Yep, it was time to take a mini trip to Sicily and make the very authentic caponata dish that I love so much. There are versions of caponata all over Italy but it's native to Sicily. The base of it is typically the same everywhere but there are lots of things you can add in to it that may not be the authentic way of doing things. No matter what version you have, it's sure to be completely delicious.

I love that so much of Italian cuisine is vegetable based. In the old days, meat was quite expensive therefore the Italians didn't have a diet heavy in it. It was more of a luxury so most of the dishes you find that are truly Italian are actually vegetarian! I tell you what, I could give up meat tomorrow if I were eating a strictly Italian veggie diet. Caponata is almost like a sautéed stew, if that makes sense, with the main ingredient being eggplant. It's lightly shallow fried and the star of the dish. From there, you add in lots of veggies like bell pepper, celery, and onion and then you build on that with capers, raisins, olives and even chocolate! Add in fresh herbs like basil, parsley and thyme and then it's finished with the quintessential agrodolce, which is the bitter or sour and sweet sauce that makes it truly caponata.

I mentioned before that finding the proper balance between salt and acid, or in this case salt and sweet, is very very tough. It's a fine line and you can really mess it up if you're not paying attention. The agrodolce part of this recipe is the most important thing. It isn't truly caponata without that so it was a little trial and error for me to get it right. I think mine was a touch too sweet but it really was fantastic overall. The photo is nothing to look at but man, it's bold, hearty and so yummy:
I've realized quickly that most of my photos will not be very pretty. We're under time constraints while in the kitchen so I have to get things plated quickly and presented to Chef, so taking photos is obviously not a priority. However, I do want to try and take them as much as possible so I can remember what things look like, well plated or not.

We also did a couple of other vegetable antipasti dishes that were to die for. Peperoni arrostiti con acciughe (roasted peppers with anchovy), verdure miste sott'aceto (mixed vegetables in marinated vinegar) and carciofo sott'olio (artichokes under oil). They were pretty simple dishes yet the peppers are insanely delicious. Things like that and the roasted tomatoes from the other day are staple items you can make to have on hand for either snacking or creating a main dish centered around them. As usual, some fresh, crusty bread would be amazing topped with them. Moving on from there, it was awesome cleaning and prepping fresh artichokes (these were baby chokes) for the first time:
It was much easier than I thought! It's sad how little you actually use of the artichoke. 

All I know is vegetarianism could be on the horizon for me sooner than later. That is, of course, until we get to meat antipasti day in which I'll promptly squash any and all such ideas. 

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