A boring day opens up with the cancellation of bridge and tennis too late for me to head off towards the Calder Exhibition at the Tate Modern.
The groceries are delivered in the morning and the possibility of various cooking chores opens up. My jars are getting a bit empty. I could usefully make a number of things for the store cupboard including some semi-dried tomatoes and pickled chillies.
But then for some reason I’m also plagued with a delivery of cavola nero, a substance bearing more than a small resemblance to cabbage. Why on earth did I order fancy cabbage? Then I vaguely remember reading the Nigel Slater recipe book and thinking that his suggestion to try something new might be good after all. I remember being caught between salsify and kale, only to find cavola nero staring back at me when searching the on-line grocer.
Kale is too daunting. If I’m going to spend a morning knocking up some pickles, then I’m going to make some caponata to cheer myself up.
- 1 aubergine, baked & cut into cubes
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 small head of celery, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- small bunch parsley, chopped
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1 handful olives, no stones
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes or very ripe fresh garden tomatoes
- oil to fry
- 1-2 tbsp cider vinegar
- sugar to taste
The only problem with caponata is the aubergine. Everyone has their own way with aubergine (eggplant) and I’m loathe to contradict a method that works. I use two approaches: griddle with no oil whatsoever for a charred but soft result and bake/microwave for a soft to melting non-charred taste.
I never salt the things and I never add oil. The salt has never seemed to make a difference to modern vegetables though I can believe 10 years ago it helped remove some bitterness. As to the oil, no matter how much I add, the aubergine seems perfectly happy to soak up more and whilst I’m not averse to a bit of slip and slide in a dish, it’s just too easy to end up with something greasy by accident.
So however you prefer to cook your aubergine, go ahead and cook it until it’s soft to melting. For me that means 10 minutes microwave/hot oven combination, then resting for 5 minutes.
Fry the onion in a pan with the celery. Add the garlic and cooked aubergine. Stir in half the parsley, capers, olives and tomatoes.
If you have very ripe, fresh tomatoes (a friend sometimes has a glut on her allotment and I’m first or second reserve fo rthe ones going over) then use fresh. Otherwise and always in Winter, use tinned.
Add the vinegar and stir to combine. Let it settle in for about 5 minutes and then taste. If it’s still too sour for your taste, then add a tablespoon of suger. Again leave it 5 minutes and taste again.
Once it’s all nicely combined, and the taste and texture work for you, pot it up and allow it to cool down.
Serve topped with the remaining parsely if you like, as part of an antipasti/mezze selection. It’s nice at room temperature on foccacia.
It’s also a fairly traditional Sicialian accompaniment to fish.