SOMETHIN' FROM THE OVEN
Janine came for lunch the other day. We thought it was the perfect way to show her around the house for potential renters (or myabe even buyers!) and to say goodbye before we leave for the states next week. Once again, it was also an excuse to clean out the freezer.
I had some chicken in the freezer and decided to make some CHICKEN SALAD WITH PECANS AND CRAISINS, which has become my all-time favorite chicken salad recipe. With spring in the air, chicken salad on a bed of beautiful green lettuce seemed perfect. As an appetizer I served Caponata, which we spread on bread like a chunky salsa. Caponata is a Sicilian dish, a sweet-sour combination of eggplant, celery, tomato paste raisins and more. I LOVE it, especially this recipe, which is one we got when we atteneded the cooking school several years ago. It freezes very well, and this was the last batch in the freezer. By the time we return to Italy eggplants should be at the market once again.
CAPONATA SICILIANA SICILIAN (EGGPLANT SALAD) FOR 6
1 KILO EGGPLANT (2.2 lbs)
1 heaping TBSP CAPERS (small)
4 CELERY STALKS
20 GREEN OLIVES de-pitted & sliced
1 LG ONION
1 heaping TBSP SUGAR
TRIPLE TOMATO CONCENTRATE
2 TBSP RAISINS (or CURRANTS)
4 + 8 LG BASIL LEAVES
60 ml RED WINE VINEGAR (1/4 cup)
4 TBSP PINE NUTS
2 TBSP TOASTED BREADCRUMBS
IF THE EGGPLANTS ARE NOT SUPER FRESH, CUT INTO SMALL CUBES, SPRINKLE W/COARSE SALT AND DRAIN IN A COLANDER FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR. SAUTE W/6-7 TBSP HOT OLIVE OIL, DRAIN ON KITCHEN PAPER & SET ASIDE. (THEY CAN ALSO BE GRILLED DRY AND CUT INTO THICK SLICES). ONCE COOLED SLICE INTO THICK STRIPS.
SLICE THE CELERY STALKS INTO 2 cm PIECES & COOK IN BOILING SALTED WATER FOR 10 MINUTES. DRAIN AND SET ASIDE. SOAK THE RAISINS/CURRANTS IN HOT WATER TO RE-HYDRATE.
SLICE THE ONION THINLY & SOFTEN IT IN ¾ TSP OLIVE OIL W/ ½ TUBE OF TOMATO CONCENTRATE & 4 BASIL LEAVES FOR 10 MINUTES. ADD THE CAPERS. CELERY, OLIVES, RAISINS, SUGAR & VINEGAR AND COOK THIS MIXTURE FOR 20 MINUTES OR SO, STIRRING FROM TIME TO TIME.
ADD THE EGGPLANT & COOK 10 MINUTES MORE, THEN TURN OFF HEAT AND ADD THE REMAINING BASIL LEAVES, SHREDDED SMALL BY HAND.
MEANWHILE TOAST THE PINE NUTS AND BREADCRUMBS.
LET THE VEGETABLE MIXTURE COOL, & MIX IN THE PINE NUTS. SERVE SEVERAL HOURS LATER, OR BETTER YET THE NEXT DAY WITH THE BREADCRUMBS SPRINKLED ON TOP.
(Sorry for the capital letters, but that's the way I typed it into the computer several years ago and I was just too lazy to re-type the whole recipe!)
Early in the morning I'd walked down to the bakery to get some foccacia bread and bread to go with the caponata. When I returned Art asked about lunch, and if I'd made anything for dessert. No, I told him, I was just going to keep it light, and thought we'd have plenty of food - no need for dessert.
I don't know if it was his own sweet tooth, or the idea that company deserved it, but he asked why I hadn't gotten something when I was at the bakery. Hmmmm, good question. As I thougth about it, I realized that it never even entered my mind. For those of you who know me, and who know what a sweet tooth I have, this must be surprising, and frankly, it was surprsing to me too. It wasn't until I'd thought about it for a minute that I realized for me, a bakery means BREAD. If I want something sweet, cake or cookies, well, of course I'd just make them myself! Remember that jingle from Pillsbuty: "nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven..."?
Art decided to brave the cold to walk down to the bakery for something sweet, and when he returned I was a little surprised that he had some sort of a cake. I really expected that he might return with an assortment of cookies, but not a cake, since we both think Italian cakes tend to be dry. Luckily this one was more like a pound cake and was quite nice - although if I'd had some fresh fruit I would have served it on top of the cake for a little moistness.
Given the fact that winter had suddenly returned overnight, I wished I'd baked the cake in my oven just to warm up the house, but a nice fire did the trick!