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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Ravioli di Zucca (Butternut Squash Ravioli) Made with Wonton Wrappers

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Yep, I got all fancy by making these ravioli in heart and circle shapes for hugs and kisses ravioli.

This version is lighter than the Ravioli di Zucca that you will find in a restaurant.  The dish is traditionally made with a thicker egg pasta, and then bathed in a brown butter and sage sauce.  It’s very good, but sometimes too heavy for me, especially when spring is coming.

In the Italian language, “zucca” means “pumpkin” and “pumpkin” means “winter squash”.

zucca =pumpkin=winter squash

Interesting enough, this is the same in the English language.  We just don’t know it.  Americans associate the word pumpkin with the familiar round orange winter squash that comes in a small size for pie making, or a large size for carving and decoration.  That’s how we use the word pumpkin.

Every once in a while I see a meme exclaiming:

DID YOU KNOW THERE IS NO PUMPKIN IN YOUR CANNED PUMPKIN PIE FILLING???  HOW CAN THEY GET AWAY WITH THIS???

My pie eating friends, please rest assured that it truly IS pumpkin in your canned pumpkin.  It’s just a variety of pumpkin that is shaped differently than what you are used to seeing at the grocery store or on your neighbors porch.  It’s a pie pumpkin – a kind that was bred in a different shape so it would be easier to harvest and can.

For ravioli di zucca, I like to use the milder, more flowery flavor of butternut squash.  Roasting it results in a carmelized note and silky texture once you put it in the food processor.  It’s so good that it doesn’t need any spices at all.

That’s why this filling is just butternut squash, a small amount of amaretti cookies, and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

Make sure to heavily salt your water whenever you cook pasta.  It should be as salty as the sea.

Enjoy!  And if someone makes this FOR you, make sure to give them lots of hugs and kisses, because believe me, it takes a long time to make these little guys.  Add in a back rub as well.  Hugs and kisses and a back rub ravioli. 🙂

Ravioli di Zucca

makes 64 ravioli

1 1/2 pounds roasted butternut squash, roughly chopped

9 Ameretti cookies

wee amount of lemon zest – like 1/8 teaspoon

wonton wrappers

1 egg + small amount of water, beaten

sauce for 24 ravioli – 4 servings

2 T butter

2 pinches red pepper

1 t crushed sage (more if you want)

handfull baby spinach leaves

1 C water

1/2 cube (crumbled) of vegetable bouillon with salt

optional: top with grated Grana Padana cheese

In a food processor, grind the cookies first, then add the squash and the zest until fully incorporated.  The mixture should be somewhat dry, and fully ground.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Place 1/2 T of squash mixture into the center of a wonton wrapper.  Brush beaten egg on all four sides of the wrapper, and place another wrapper on top, pressing down and getting out as many air bubbles as possible.  Use a cookie cutter, glass or ravioli machine to cut out the desired shape.  Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet, and cover with a damp dishcloth.  Once the tray is full, remove towel, and transfer ravioli to the freezer or refrigerator.  Continue until all the ravioli are finished.  You can freeze the ravioli you are not cooking for supper at a later time!

Bring several quarts of water to a boil and then add salt. While waiting for water to boil, heat up butter, sage, and red pepper in a saute pan on med low until the butter browns.  As soon as it starts to brown, add the spinach leaves and crumbled bouillon, then the water.  reduce the heat to simmer once it boils, and let it simmer while you cook the ravioli.

I recommend cooking the ravioli thawed if it was previously frozen.  These take about 2 minutes or so.  Transfer from water to the saute pan to soak up flavoring for at least another minute.  Transfer the ravioli to serving dishes and ladle the broth over the top.

Top with cracked pepper and grana padana if you wish!

 

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