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Italian Style

March 12, 2010

Its FRIDAY! This week went by quickly, but it was not at all exciting :/ Do you ever have weeks like that? I have been looking forward to this weekend though, because the Boston Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is on Sunday! I have never gone out on Saint Patty’s Day (I know, not even in college!) but living in such an Irish city I could not pass up the opportunity 🙂 Tonight Z and I are having a night in, resting up for the festivities.

When I go out to dinner I make one request: “not Italian”. I love every kind of food, but going to an Italian restaurant is like Eve in an apple orchard. I have a hard enough time not dipping into a bread basket, but I cannot handle a menu of homemade pasta and Tiramisu. Amazing dishes that I can’t eat. And it makes me sad. I used to enjoy nothing more than a little Italian bistro, I even worked at one on the Upper West Side, but those days are long gone.

I still had some frozen gnocci and wanted to use the rest of my little potato dumplings of joy in a truly Italian dish. Something hearty and vegetable based to make an incredibly satisfying meal. My mind turned to eggplant, and then eggplant caponata. Eggplant and I are friends again after my Eggplant Parmesan success 🙂

There are hundreds of varieties of caponata served all over Italy, though the most well known one is Sicilian (though Sicily itself hosts upwards of 37 different varieties on its own!) Most of them have an eggplant base, some being completely vegetarian, like a “hot salad”, and some served with poultry or fish for a traditionally more upper class dish.

What I found intriguing is the debate about where the name “Caponata” comes from. Some say it is derived from the name of a fish, or from the Capon bird traditionally served on Christmas in Italy. Others suggest its comes from caupone, meaning “sailors taverns”, as a variety of this dish was often eaten by sailors on the high seas. While the etymology is up in the air, the basic flavors remain the same, no matter which variety you choose to make. I went with a classic, eggplant and tomato recipe. (Source 1, Source 2)

Eggplant Caponata with Gnocchi adapted from recipezaar.com

1 large eggplant, skin on and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup olives, slices (green is traditional, but I had black ones on hand)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon capers
Premade or homemade gnocchi

Put all of the ingredients (except the gnocchi) into a large enamel or cast iron saucepan. Either cook on high for an hour, or cook on a low heat for 3 hours.

(I actually made this last night while making the cashew chicken, let it cook for about an hour and a half, and reheated it tonight for an hour longer.)

Taste and re-season if necessary — but it probably won’t be!

Bring a pot of water to boil and add a teaspoon of salt. Drop the gnocchi in. When they float, remove with a slotted spoon and put on a plate. Let cool for a few minutes so they maintain their shape. Serve atop the caponata.

I loved this dish, but unfortunately Z didn’t. The vinegar flavor is very strong, and in the future I would probably cut it in half. I love the tanginess of vinegar, though, and with the olives and eggplant I found it incredibly satisfying with a huge “bam!”. The mellowness of the gnocchi was a great compliment to the bold caponata. I felt bad that Z didn’t like it, but I had two bowls of the veggies! Sooo good! I highly recommend this if you like a strong, tangy taste. If you don’t I would leave out the vinegar, and maybe use some less intense spices such as cumin to make a warmer flavored dish.

What do you do if the person you are cooking for doesn’t like their meal?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2010 10:35 pm

    Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm I would definitely love this dish. I think I have similar tastes likes to you, so I bet I’d devour a few bowls!
    It’s hard when the person you’re cooking for doesn’t like their meal. At first, I feel badly and probably feel sad, but then I taste the meal for myself and analyze whether it’s the dish itself or the person’s palate. I like to think that I have a sophisticated palate enough to determine if a dish is close to what it “should” taste like. You know? Not to say that my taste buds detect the “right” flavors, but being a foodie who analyzes every morsel she comes across, I have a very clear understanding about what flavor combinations/cuisines are supposed to taste like. So this allows me to be a fairly good judge. Haha, I realize how pompous it sounds, but I don’t mean it that way! Sorry for the rambling!
    I hope you have a fantastic St. Patty’s Day celebration. Boston is where it’s at!

  2. March 12, 2010 11:22 pm

    St Patty’s is so much fun!!! I’m glad you FINALLY get to enjoy it this year!! I celebrated St. Patty’s in Hoboken last weekend …love the early celebrations!

    xo

    jocelyn

  3. March 13, 2010 7:40 am

    Enjoy the parade. You’re either going to have tons of fun or be completely mortified! hahaha!

    I have trouble in Italian restaurants too…and I’m Italian!

  4. March 14, 2010 12:35 pm

    I don’t really care for eating Italian out either. I find most places to be more American-Italian, and I like more traditional, less greasy, more flavorful dishes.

    I love caponata! And I have a recipe that everyone seems to like, even eggplant haters. It’s a bit sweeter because it has raisins, and a hint of cocoa powder and cinnamon. Perhaps these mellow out the vinegar? I can dig it up if you want to try again.

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