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?