Saturday, September 18, 2010

Eggplant Caponata and Salumi

While out running errands this afternoon, Alex and I decided to purchase a few varieties of salumi from Salumeria Rosi.  We tasted several varieties of sausages and prosciutto and picked out four to take home with us - spicy soppressata, sweet cacciatorino, 12-month aged prosciutto, and 24-month aged prosciutto.  If you live on the UWS, or really anywhere in NYC, Salumeria Rosi is worth a visit just for their salumi.  It is amazing.  If you have any interest in salumi at all and decide to eat at the restaurant (rather than taking some salumi to go) you need to order the Selezione de Salumiere so you can try as many varieties as possible.  Yum.

To accompany our salumi, Alex and I decided to make some caponata and rosemary focaccia.  I can't say that I have ever eaten or made caponata before, but there was some in the display case at Salumeria Rosi that looked good, plus I knew it would use up the eggplants hanging out in our vegetable drawer.  Done deal.  I briefly considered making some sort of heirloom tomato salad with the tomatoes I picked up at the farmer's market today to go with the salumi, but decided that the caponata just sounded better (regardless of the fact that I had never tasted it before, I had some vague idea of what went into it and how it should taste).  From the endless hours of Food Network I watched while studying in law school I knew that caponata is a Sicilian dish and should be both sweet and sour and would contain eggplant, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar.  So I went home and turned to Mario Batali to tell me what to do to make caponata.  I knew that there had to be a recipe for caponata in at least one of the four Batali cookbooks we own.  Luckily, we found a recipe for caponata in Molto Italiano.  Even more luckily, we had everything we needed to make it without another trip to the grocery.  I also took a brief look at a few other recipes online, but decided to just stick with Mario and see how it turned out.

So never having had caponata before, this was everything I hoped it would be and more.  It was delicious.  Sweet and sour from the sugar, dried currants and balsamic (just like I expected) but also wonderfully spicy from the crushed red pepper flakes.  The recipe also called for cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa, which sounded super strange.  But the spices smelled amazing while the caponata was cooking and helped give the caponata serious flavor and complexity.  I forgot to add the pine nuts (which neither of us noticed until I went back to the recipe to add it to the blog), but I didn't miss them.  Although the pine nuts would have added some butteriness and some crunch to the caponata, it was still perfectly delicious without them.  Unfortunately, our focaccia wasn't quite as successful.  Alex called it the "focaccia pretzel" because it was dry and dense, and had more of a crust than any focaccia I have ever tried before.  It still tasted good, but it wasn't exactly a focaccia.  I don't think we let it rise long enough, and I also think that I should have added more evoo to the dough.  Don't get me wrong.  We still ate it.  And it was nice topped with the caponata, but it wasn't focaccia.  Oh well.  The salumi and the caponata more than made up for the wonky focaccia.

Recipe (and pictures of the salumi) after the jump!

Eggplant Caponata (Caponata de Melanzane)
Adapted from Molto Italiano
By Mario Batali

1/2 cup evoo
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tbsp dried currants
1 tbsp crushed red chili flakes
2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
3/4 cup Pomi strained tomatoes
13 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, for garnish (optional)

In a 10 to 12-inch saute pan, heat the evoo over medium heat until hot.  Add onion, garlic, currants, and red pepper flakes.  Cook until onion is softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Add eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add thyme, Pomi tomatoes, and balsamic.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Serve with toasted baguette.

And now for more pictures of the salumi.  I am only posting close-ups of our two favorites, the sweet cacciatorino and the 12-month aged prosciutto, in that order.  FYI - you can see the spicy soppressata and the 24-month prosciutto in the background of the picture of the sweet cacciatorino.

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