Tag Archives: Sugar

Caponata (Eggplant Stew)

20 Aug

Caponata is a delicious dish, typical of the Sicilian cuisine made with sautéed vegetables (mostly eggplants) and seasoned with sweet and sour sauce.  Sicilians are very proud of it because it is made only native Sicilian ingredients. It can be served cold either as an appetizer or as a side dish, but you can also enjoy it as a main course with a thick slice of homemade bread. It makes a perfect dish for a summer picnic because it can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  Actually, it is a handy dish to have ready in your fridge for unexpected guests or nights when you don’t know what to prepare. Like for all recipes, there is a basic recipe and many variations. I learned this recipe which contains peppers from a dear friend from Palermo (Sicily). The origin of this dish is uncertain -: The etymology refers to the Spanish language “caponata” which means “similar”.  According to the Sicilian tradition, the term caponata comes from “capone” which is the name of an expensive fish, served with a sweet and sour sauce, typical of caponata.  Poor people could not afford this expensive fish, therefore they replaced it with the cheapest eggplants.  According to other sources, the name derives from “caupone“, the name of the taverns, in which this dish was served. Regardless this recipe’s origins, the fact is that it is really tasty, definitely something to try!

Preparation time: 2 ½ hours   Cooking time: 30 minutes    Servings: 8

Caponata (2)

900 g (2 pounds) eggplant
2 medium onions, finely chopped
450 g (1 pound) celery, finely chopped
110 g (⅔ cup) pine nuts
150 g (1 cup) green olives
3 tablespoons cucunci capers (preserved in salt)
450 g (1 pound) peppers
450 g (1 pound) tomatoes S. Marzano, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
110 ml (½ cup) white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
5-6 leaves of fresh basil
Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Cut eggplants into pieces about 2,5 cm (1 inch) long, put them in a large colander and sprinkle with coarse salt. Allow to stand for at least two hours under a weight to remove their bitter liquid. To aid the removal of the liquid, try putting the colander in a slightly inclined position. After two hours, remove salt from the eggplant with a kitchen brush and dry by patting them with paper towels. Fry in hot oil olive. Set aside
2. In a pan with high sides, sauté onions, celery, peppers, capers, olives and pine nuts in olive oil for about 7-8 min. Add tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes over low heat until celery is tender
3. Add eggplants, basil leaves and sugar dissolved in vinegar. Mix well and cook over medium-low heat for about 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper
4. Let set for a few hours serve at room temperature.

Note: The caponata can be stored in the refrigerator for several days in a glass or ceramic container closed with a lid. Before consuming, leave it at room temperature.  -Paola





Confettura di Fragole (Strawberry Jam)

2 Jun

Italian markets are now brimming with colorful and tasty strawberries, the symbol of spring and… la fragranza per eccellenza!  Strawberries are an ancient fruit; the Greeks and Romans enjoyed them because of their sweet smell and aroma.  Actually, strawberries are a false fruit, they are the fleshy receptacle containing the real fruit, ie the yellow seeds on the surface.  Strawberries are very healthy, rich in vitamin C, they also contain moderate amounts of vitamin A, B1 and B2.  They have tonic, re-mineralizing, purifying, detoxifying properties, and also good in a weight-loss diet.  They are one of the tastier and more versatile fruits found both in savory and sweet recipes.  Have you ever tried strawberries with balsamic vinegar?  The vinegar truly enhances their flavor!  Spring is also the perfect season for preparing strawberry jam, a multipurpose ingredient for many sweets (there is nothing better than an homemade crostata http://passionandcooking.com/2012/10/06/crostata-di-marmellata-jam-pie/ with strawberry jam), an ideal topping for spreading on bread or brioche for breakfast or a tasty condiment for goat cheese!  This jam is soft, spreadable and delicious!

Preparation time: 60 minutes + 40 minutes canning

Confettura di Fragole
1500 g (3 pounds and 5 oz) fresh strawberries
700 g (3 ⅓ cups) sugar
Juice of one lemon

1. Wash strawberries under running water and dry with paper towels
2. Remove the green leaves and cut into pieces
3. In a large saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring slowly to the boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.  Skim the foam.  Cover and let cook over low heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring often.  Remove the cover and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens.  When jam becomes quite dense, stir constantly to prevent sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. This recipe prepares approx. 1200 g (less than 3 pounds) jam (3 jars).  Good jam should cook until the temperature reaches 220-222°F/104-105°C on a candy thermometer.  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use this test: Place a small amount of jam on a spoon and pour back sideways into the pan.  At first it will be liquid, then later two separate drops will form on the spoon. The jam is ready to be removed from the heat when it falls off the spoon as a single drop. You can store the jam in jars in the refrigerator for two weeks. However if you prefer to keep it longer, you should preserve it, using for example the following canning method
4. For canning, use previously sterilized jars and new caps.  Pour warm jam in hot jars and fill them up leaving a gap of 1 cm (½ in).  Seal and turn them upside down for about 10 minutes to create the vacuum.  Put the jars in a large pan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the jars from the pan and store in a cool and dark place.

Note: When you purchase strawberries choose ones that have uniformly red color but not too dark, because otherwise they are too ripe.  Furthermore it is important that they do not have green or white spots, indicating that they are immature.  Strawberry jam requires a longer cooking time than other jams because strawberries contain little pectin, a natural fiber that is used as a thickening agent.  -Paola

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