I was surprised to note that I hadn’t posted this dish before because it is definitely one of my favorites and I make it frequently. I call it Sicilian because it has ‘ingredient pairings’ that are often found in rustic Sicilian dishes, like mixing savory and salty with a trace of sweet and citrus. You definitely want to try this recipe…even if you don’t like the second ingredient.
So, take out the soundtrack to “The Godfather ” and get ready to eat a dish that just builds on flavor…layer after layer…right up to and through the Finishing Touch(es). Questa pasta ha un sapore molto buona!
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1 eggplant cubed
1 tin anchovies mashed
1/3 fennel cubed
1 carrot minced
1 oz. rehydrated porcini mushrooms (reserve liquid)
1/4 small red onion minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup pesto base (w/o cheese)*
1 pint fresh grape tomatoes halved
raisins (rehydrate with mushrooms)
sun-dried tomatoes (a few minced)
Seasonings: salt, ground fennel seeds + star anise, red pepper flakes
First Step: Cube, dice and mince all vegetables. This can be done in advance as I did earlier in the day. Set aside with a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil. I also added the fresh herbs at this time along with salt, fennel seeds and star anise.
Step 2. Mash contents of 1 tin of anchovies (with oil) in hot skillet till it breaks down. Add vegetables and sauté. When vegetables start to caramelize, add pesto, mushrooms and raisins. Reduce heat and cover.
Step 3. Depending on how vegetables cook down, you may want to add some liquid. Here you can use the rehydrating liquid and/or broth/wine/tomato sauce. Your choice.
Step 4. When caponata is just about ready, add olives and capers.
For a special treat, just before plating, add fresh boccoccini and watch it melt.
Finishing Touch. A sprinkle of porcini salt (just because I have it and why not?) The other usual finishing touches are a few fresh basil leaves, grated fresh parmigiano and black pepper. Lastly, a quick zest of orange adds a bright finish and brings it all together.
*Pesto base. I make this often and keep it in the refrigerator (basil, olive oil, nuts, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt). A spoonful or two is a great base to many dishes, like vinaigrettes, fish sauces, etc. When you want the traditional pesto, just add the cheese. It was perfect for this dish because I wanted to add the cheese separately at the end.
A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!
I've always been a culinary improvisor which means I get my kicks out of recipe development. In the FOODalogue kitchen each meal is an adventure and the journey is as exciting as the destination. My favorite kitchen tools are imagination and intuition. I rarely look at a recipe, not even my own!
On these pages, I suggest food pairings and techniques to be experimented with...in your own kitchen...to your own spice levels...and to your preferred portion sizes.