Thursday, July 22, 2010

Caponata alla Siciliana

Today I am going to share a really special Sicilian dish. Caponata takes on many forms in Italy. Sicilian Caponata refers to a cooked vegetable salad made from chopped fried eggplant seasoned with crushed garlic, sweetened vinegar and olive oil. Occasionally fried green bell peppers, pine nuts or raisins are added for variation. The Caponata recipe I make is a baked version and is accompanied perfectly with couscous. So, let’s get right into it. This is what you need:

3 large eggplants – sliced 8mm – 10mm thick
Parmesan cheese – grated
Cooking oil

Basic Napolitano sauce:

1 large onion – chopped
Garlic (to taste)
3 tins whole chopped & peeled tomatoes
1 green pepper - chopped
6 tbs sugar
Balsamic vinegar
Basil / Oregano chopped
Olive oil

Start the Napolitano sauce by putting the chopped onion garlic and green pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato, sugar, a few small glugs of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and herbs and mix together. Season well with salt and pepper, cover and allow to cook through gently.

Now, heat the cooking oil in a deep frying pan and start frying the eggplant. When the slices become soft, that’s when they are ready. Place on absorbent paper to drain the oil.

By now, the Napolitano sauce should be well on its way. Give it a taste to make sure that it has good flavour and adjust accordingly. Blend the sauce either in a blender or with a hand-held to make smooth, then add the capers and put on low heat for a further 10 minutes.

For the final step, you need to lay the fried eggplant in a casserole dish almost as if you were making lasagna. In fact, think of the eggplant as the sheets of lasagna! So, it’s a layer of eggplant followed by some Napolitano and grated Parmesan, then a layer of eggplant….get it?

Finally pop it in the oven and bake for about 20mins. When its done, take out of the oven and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before serving with couscous. This is real “Sicilia in Bocca” (taste of Sicily).

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