Caponata is a sweet and sour vegetable Sicilian side dish or topping for Bruschetta. Normally it is a summer dish featuring eggplant. However, it has a fraternal winter twin that swaps out the eggplant for butternut squash, artichoke hearts or, like today’s recipe, cauliflower.
Winter versions of caponata tend to be lighter and healthier than their summer eggplant counterpart. In the eggplant version, the eggplant is fried in oil. In my winter version, I roast the cauliflower, even without any oil. It’s much lighter and the dish gets better over time, so feel free to prepare it in advance, even a couple of days ahead.
Arliano Update (Aggiornamento Arliano):
I’ve been absent from this blog, eating out a lot and even preparing doctored up frozen pizzas in the last two weeks. Why? We finally moved upstairs to our house! You might think that means the renovation work is done, but no. There are still paint touch ups to do in our house and then work begins on the downstairs apartment where we had been living. After some initial hiccups and a little water explosion with our heating system, the eco-radiator system is working great and we feel so much more comfortable than we did in the downstairs apartment with the electric forced air system. Current thinking is that the apartment will be a summer rental, only.
We have spent over a week moving things from the downstairs apartment and from deep storage to upstairs to our house. At the same time, just to punish ourselves, Tom mounted storage shelves in the newly created laundry closet and I put the finishing touches on the “Facebook Marketplace acquired” dining room table that I’ve been refinishing since the summer. The kitchen alone took 4 days to arrange, rearrange, rearrange again, etc. Likely, it is still not where it will land “forever” but plates, glasses, cutlery, and cookware seem to be in logical places. Note to self: Stop buying bakeware – you don’t need any more for the rest of your life!
It really seems like Christmas opening boxes and bins and seeing art that I haven’t seen in a year and a half. Even with the hard work, it’s been joyful except for one thing. We had a beautiful, soft under the feet large Persian carpet. Operative word being “had.” Moths have been feasting on it for well over a year and it’s beyond repair. I suppose it is a life lesson of letting go and moving on. Now time for more fun… figuring out our seemingly complex oven!
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Caponata Invernale con Cavolfiore (Winter Caponata with Cauliflower)<br />
- 1 large cauliflower, any color, broken into small florets
- 3 celery stalks, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces
- 1 large red onion, medium diced
- 100 grams (a little more than 1/2 cup, but increase or decrease per your taste) green and/or black olives, pitted and cut in half or quarters
- 1 15-ounce can peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons capers (rinsed, soaked for 10 minutes, then drained). Chop the capers if they are large
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons regular granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup raisins (softened in water for 10 minutes, then drained and patted dry) – or – 1/3 cup almonds toasted and finely chopped, or toasted breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt), more to taste
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground red chili pepper (optional)
- Pre-heat oven to 400 F (200 C). Clean the cauliflower and break or cut it into small florets. Note: if you are making this for a bruschetta topping, make the florets very small as they tend to stay on top of the bread more easily. If you are serving this as a stand-alone side dish, the florets can be a bit larger). Place the florets on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven with the rack placed in the upper third of the oven until the florets have browned on the edges, about 25 – 30 minutes
- While the cauliflower is roasting, place the diced celery, onion, oregano, salt, and ground red chili powder (if using) in a pan with olive oil and sauté over medium heat, until the vegetables become translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, olives, capers, and garlic, then sauté for 1 minute. Add the crushed canned tomatoes, and simmer for 10 minutes. Note: add a splash of water (but no more than 1/4 cup) to the emptied can of tomatoes to get all the flavorful tomato juices out of the can. Pour the water into the sauté pan
- Mix the vinegar and sugar in a glass and stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour the sweetened vinegar into the pan with the celery, onion, tomato mixture and stir
- Fold in the roasted cauliflower florets and raisins or almonds and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates, about 10 – 12 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes while cooking. Let cool before serving. Serve at room temperature or lukewarm as a side dish or on bread like bruschetta. Note: This is better the second day, so it may be made ahead
Always looking for new ways to eat more vegetables. This dish looks great and I look forward to trying it.
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