Caponata en Croute

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Caponata is a well known and much loved Italian antipasto that originated in Sicily.  A savory mix of vegetables and fried eggplant is perked up with sweetened vinegar and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

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Tonight we ate it “en croute”, wrapped in puff pastry, as the main dish.  It was served with a fresh salad and a little bit of fish.

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It’s incredibly versatile, and can be used as a side with Mahi-Mahi or roasted meats, as a main course, or as an appetizer that is served either on it’s own or with toast points.  Some versions even include pine nuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds, and a bit of cocoa powder.  Like an Italian version of mole.  Feel free to add those if you are so inclined!

Caponata en Croute

Serves 4

Caponata the night before…

2 small eggplants, sliced in 1/2 inch strips (see instructions)

2 small red onions, cut in half, and then cut in 1/4 inch slices

1 celery stick, cut in 1/4 inch slices, and boiled for 4 minutes

1 large sweet red pepper, cut in 1/2 inch strips

1 T capers (if packed in salt, rinse and soak for at least an hour, changing water at least once to purge the salt.  If packed in vinegar, just rinse)

12 green olives, thinly sliced

6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded

1.5 T raw sugar mixed with 2 T red wine vinegar

about 2 C olive oil (give or take) for frying eggplant

black pepper and salt

Sprinkle eggplant strips with salt and let sit in a colander for at least an hour.  Rinse thoroughly, and press between dishtowels to dry.

Saute pepper and onion slices in olive oil with a pinch of salt.  Use a pan or pot with a cover – this will help the vegetables to retain moisture, and get a great texture.  I start with the peppers, and then add the onions once the peppers are about 1/2 way done.  Once the onions are nice and soft and translucent, add the tomato puree and cook for about 15 minutes with the cover on, stirring occasionally.  Take pan off heat and set aside.

Add olive oil to fry pan and heat to med/med low.  Whatever fry temperature is for your particular stovetop.  Fry the eggplant in batches, removing from the oil when they are golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Add the eggplant, capers, olives, and basil to the pepper and onion mixture.  Return the pan to the stove top and heat to medium.  Once it’s nice and hot, stir in the sugar vinegar mixture, cook for an additional 10 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool down.  Transfer to a container and let sit overnight and up to 3 days.

En Croute the night of…

1 rectangular sheet store bought puff pastry dough (use one made with oil if you prefer a vegan version)

1 beaten egg for brushing top of pastry (use oil if you don’t want to use egg)

dried oregano and Maldon or other flaky salt for sprinkling on top of pastry

Let caponata come to room temperature. Spread in center of pastry dough, and fold over edges.  Brush top with beaten egg or oil, and sprinkle with herbs and salt.  Cook according to package instructions.  The caponata is already cooked and does not need to be hot, so really you’re just cooking the pastry.

Enjoy!

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Panzarotti (small hand held deep fried calzone)

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In a village called Monteroni d’Arbia , in the heart of Tuscany (Toscana), was a gem of a restaurant.

It was my first visit to Italy and I was looking for a place that was focused on farm to table food, and locally made items.

In this restaurant I was served something called panzarotti.  It had cheese and tomatoes in a fried crust.

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It’s a specialty of an area outside of Tuscany called Puglia (Apulia).  However, Naples also claims to be the birthplace of panzarotti.

What is interesting, is that in a small city in Wisconsin, there is a restaurant that has been serving something very similar called a “Ponza Rotta”, since 1976. It’s the same thing, only this version is HUGE.  Barely fits on a plate huge.  For a long time, it was the only place you could find it in the US.  And for a long time, no one knew the history of it.  Now, they are served at many places and even New Jersey claims to be the birthplace of these delectable treats.

If places around the world argue over who invented something, you have to believe that they are good!  Wherever they came from, or whomever came up with the idea, they were pretty genius in my humble opinion.

This crust recipe came from the blog thesweetworldsite.com where she asked that I try her calzone recipe.  This is an awesome dough, and I’ll be using it from now on.

My heart to yours,

Christina

Panzerotti

3 cups flour

pinch of salt

1/2 C warm water ( I used a PH of almost 9.  Water makes a difference)

1 1/2 t yeast

1 t sugar

extra warm water if needed

2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted tomatoes diced and drained of liquid

2 C shredded mozzarella  (I actually used a mix of mozzarella and provolone.  If you are using a fresh mozz, make sure to drain it very very well)

2 t Italian seasoning

grapeseed oil

Food processor

Mix the dried yeast and sugar and warm up your water.  Pour the water into your yeast sugar mix.  Let sit for a while.  Everyone says 5 minutes.

In your food processor, mix together 3 cups of flour and a “pinch” of salt.  I used sea salt, and the pinch is probably 1/4 t as I did it. Pulse.

Slowly pour the yeast water mixture into the flour. Keep pulsing.  Add more warm water as needed to make the ball. I ended up using about 3/4 C in total. It will form a ball all by itself. Take it out and pat it.  It should feel like a bay butt.  Sprinkle with water, cover it with a cotton dishcloth, and put in a warm place to rise for about an hour or so.

Take your cans of fireroasted tomatoes and pour them out in a collandar that you set over a bowl to catch the juices.  Stir them and let them drain.  Once they are drained, chop them up into little pieces. Drain again, and put into a bowl.  Mix in the cheese and seasonings.

Take your dough out and pat it down. Loosely stretch it into a log. Cut in 1/2, and then form 2 balls.  You don’t have to knead. After forming the 2 balls, stretch each one into a log and divide each log into 8 pieces.  Form a little dough ball with each piece, sprinkle with water, and cover to let rise a second time.  They should double in size.  Take them out again, pat them down, and reform the ball.  At this time, the dough will be firm enough to really handle that high temperature. Roll it out into a circle.  These end up being somewhere between 5 and 5 1/2 inches round.

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Fill with 1 1/2 – 2 T tomato and cheese mixture.  Honestly, you could put whatever pizza filling you wanted in there.  Fold the it over and pinch the ends so that it stays together.  Once they are done, I put them in the refrigerator to wait while the oil heats up.

Heat up your oil in a dutch oven.  It’s ready when you put the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil and it starts to bubble up and then the bubbles race away from the handle.

Gently lay one of the pastries into the oil.  Once it floats to the surface, add your next pastry.  Then, when that one hits the surface, add the next one.  As they start to brown, flip them over and continue to cook.  These go very fast – most of them took only around 3 minutes, but some took a bit longer. Remove them from the oil, and let them drain on a wire rack.  Sprinkle with salt.

Someone is going to try this recipe with an airfryer, so we’ll see how that works!  They are not very oily to begin with, but I’m curious to see if this crust will work with that cooking method!

 

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