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As you may know, I’m a huge fan of Sicily and their regional cuisine. My wife and I had many servings of caponata as we traveled the island, and though spectacularly varied in flavor, they were chiefly the same ingredients, eggplant, capers, celery (which Lisa removed from her portions), tomatoes, etc. But in the town of Rosolini I had something entirely different, a caponata made of fruit, served alongside a grilled veal ribeye.
Here is my take, summer fruits stewed with wine vinegar, honey, and olive oil. It’s a supremely versatile condiment, bright and freshly acidic, with a deep but forgiving sweetness. August is nearing the end of king salmon season, and I made a lovely meal of caponata served with a simply seared fillet, plus fluffy basmati rice with toasted almonds. A sprinkle of Izak N37 ties all the flavors together perfectly.
1 cup whole red cherries, stems removed if you like (you can also leave them on as a reminder not to eat the pits)
2 firm nectarines, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 Vidalia onion, peeled, 1-inch dice
2 cups mixed whole grapes
2-3 Tbsp wine vinegar (either white or red is fine, amount will depend on acidity, some wine vinegars are above the standard 5%)
Sweetener, to taste (I prefer chestnut honey)
Salt, to taste
2 cups basmati rice, rinsed well and soaked in water for 15 minutes, then drained
3 cups water
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
4 – 4oz fillets of salmon
Oil for frying
Combine all ingredients except salt and sweetener in a sauce pot with a lid and cook, covered, over medium heat until everything has softened, about 25 minutes. Adjust to taste with salt and sweetener of your choice, and additional vinegar, if desired. Leaving the fruit whole or in large chunks keeps it from getting mushy, and you’ll get a lovely red color from the cherry skins. Depending on the season you can also try adding/substituting: strawberries, small plums, quince, figs, apple, or pear.
Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottom sauce pot with a lid, mix well and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 25 minutes, then allow to rest off of the heat for 10 minutes before gently fluffing the rice.
Pat the fillets dry and season with salt while you heat a few tablespoons of oil in a seasoned or otherwise non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Sear the fillets, starting with the meat side, cooking for about 4 minutes. Gently flip, and cook until the skin is crisp and fillets are cooked to your liking (about 4 minutes more for just cooked in the center for a 4 oz. fillet).
Plate the rice, caponata, and salmon and top with a generous sprinkling of Izak N37.
Leftover caponata will keep for about a week in a sealed container in the refrigerator, place a piece of plastic wrap or a light coating of olive oil on the exposed surface if the jar isn’t full.
The caponata goes really well with most anything you want to throw at it. Try it with brined pork chops, season the chops with Mishmish N33, pan fry and serve with spätzle. Or alongside farro pilaf and braised chicken thighs seasoned with Breeze N5. Or in an ice cream parfait with Orchidea N34 granola.
Use the caponata to make a savory cobbler. Fill a baking dish with a layer of cherry tomatoes and season with Luberon N4, and add caponata to cover (pit the cherries after making the caponata in this case). Make a biscuit dough using buttermilk, goat cheese, and cheddar and cover the dish loosely with the dough. Bake at 350°F until browned, about 35 minutes.
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue
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