If yesterday’s post has left you hungry, here is a description of the excellent lunch I had at the Fontanasalsa agritourism when I visited in the spring. The table was filled with the fruits of the fields and woods nearby–platters piled high with sweet or peppered cheeses and salamis from the countryside, sweet-and-sour eggplant and zucchini compotes, tender glazed veal rolls stuffed with caciocavallo cheese and herbs, and baby cuttlefish coddled in pungent tomato sauce, as tender as they could be. There was hand-made pasta stuffed like a jelly roll with freshly made sheep’s milk ricotta and tender greens, and couscous with seafood in the Arabo-Trapanese style. Sweet ricotta fritters and bowls filled with strawberries large and miniature as sweet as candy, and tarts made from them followed.
Caponata (Sweet and Sour Eggplant)
from Italian Home Cooking: 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul (U.S. edition) /Italian Comfort Food (U.K. edition) by Julia della Croce (Kyle Books, New York/ Kyle Cathie, London: 2010)
Caponata is typically served as an appetizer in Trapani. Serve it on lettuce leaves or freshly toasted slices of bread.
1 pound Italian eggplants
extra-virgin olive oil for frying
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, smashed
5 celery stalks, strings removed, cut into 1-inch dice
¼ cup Italian capers packed in salt, rinsed thoroughly
¼ cup tart green Sicilian olives, pitted and quartered
1¼ cups crushed tomatoes, or tomato sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons minced fresh basillettuce leaves or toasted bread slices for serving
1. Wash the eggplants and remove the stem and navel. Leave the skin on. Cut it into 1-inch cubes and transfer to a colander. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place a dish with a weight on top of the eggplant. Place the colander in a clean sink or on a plate where it can drain unhampered for at least 1 hour to give the seeds plenty of time to release their bitter liquid. Pat the eggplant well with clean paper towels to blot moisture and salt.
2. Pour enough olive oil to reach 1 inch up the sides of a frying pan. When it is sizzling hot, add the eggplant and fry until colored and soft, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle immediately with sea salt; set aside.
3. In a skillet, warm the 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and sauté until colored but still crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant, capers, and olives to the pan and toss. Stir in the tomatoes or tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and basil. Cook over low heat to meld the flavors, about 10 minutes. Cover and chill overnight to develop flavors.
4. Check for seasoning before serving. Caponata is best eaten at room temperature. Serve on lettuce leaves or toasted bread.
Note: Caponata will keep for 1 week, chilled.