Caponata is a classic Sicilian dish that I have come to adore because of my love for sweet and sour dishes. (See my gushing over Sweet n Sour Pork in my previous post.) Caponata consists of eggplants/aubergine, celery, tomatoes, onions, and capers, with raisins added for sweetness and vinegar for the sour tangy taste. The dish exists in many variations all over Italy and the Mediterranean region, each having its own local interpretation by using different ingredients to alter the taste and texture. Caponata is mostly used as an appetizer or snack on crostini or as an accompaniment to fish dishes.
Not a fan of eggplant? Caponata is a great vehicle to re-introduce you to this nightshade vegetable. This dish’s sweetness and sourness overtakes the basic earthy flavor of the vegetable that many people don’t like and is more prominent in other eggplant preparations.
So for this month’s 4 Velveteer Challenge, we were given the assignment to reinterpret Caponata with our own creative spin. I decided to create a amuse-bouche, a single bite-sized hors d’oeuvre featuring Caponata’s signature flavor profile with other complimentary flavors. Instead of raisins or currants, I used apples as a sweetener and for its pectin to create a Caponata Jam. A pinch of cinnamon pays homage to its ancient Arabic roots, and lemon zest punches up the freshness.
The jam is served with fresh basil on an olive oil financier. The taste of a fruity vibrant olive oil in the financier round off the sharp bright flavors of the jam and basil.
Olive Oil Financier w Caponata Jam
recipe by hungry rabbit, 2010
make 2 dozen
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup yellow onions, diced
1/2 cup celery stalk, diced
3/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup eggplant, diced
3/4 cup tart apples, diced
3/4 cups tomatoes, diced and reserve accumulated juices (you can substitute with canned diced tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar or to taste
1. Heat olive oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add salt, onions, celery and red bell peppers, sauté until translucent and softened, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant, apples and sauté until beginning to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, oregano, cinnamon, black pepper, fish sauce and red pepper flakes, if use. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest and capers. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and sugar to taste.
2. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Store in clean jar and refrigerate up to a week.
Olive Oil Financier
adapted from Thomas Keller
make 2 dozen
1/3 cup Almond flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg whites
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 325℉ with rack in center position. Lightly coat mini-muffin pan (24 count) with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Whisk together, flours, sugar and salt. Add egg whites and whisk to combine. Add oil in a slow stream,whisk to combine. Add rosemary, whisk until fully incorporated.
3. Divide batter among muffin cups. Baked until lightly golden and toothpick comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Let rest in pan for 5 minutes
4. Remove financier from muffin pan and cool completely on cooling rack.
24 basil leaves
24 mozzarella pieces, about 1-1/2 round
Halve financier horizontally, spoon a generous teaspoon of jam on bottom half, add basil leaf and mozzarella. Place top half over and serve.
1. Financier can be made 2 days in advance, bring to room temperature before assembly.
2. You can puree jam, full or partial, in food processor for extra smooth texture