27 September 2012

Eggplant Caponata

It's been eggplant season at our CSA farm and I was very much in a rut for recipes. There are only so many times one can do eggplant parmesan and baba ganoush. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a lovely  recipe called eggplant caponata. Now, it's not vastly different from other eggplant recipes, but the olives and vinegar offer a nice touch in what can either be used as a dip or a sandwich topping.

Eggplant Caponata
makes about 5 cups
adapted from The Kitchn

1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into small cubes, about 4 cups total
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 ounces white mushrooms, chopped (optional, I just used more eggplant)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and sliced
1 or 2 medium tomatoes, according to personal preference
3 tablespoons red wine or imitation balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc. as desired

1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot (use a dutch oven if you can) over medium-high heat

2. Add the eggplant, pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic, stir to coat with oil, and cook until everything is soft (about 10 minutes)

3. Bring down to a low heat,  add the olives, tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and whichever spices you desire (about 1/2 teaspoon if dried, 1/2 tablespoon if fresh), cover and simmer for half an hour, stirring every 5-10 minutes

4. Serve warm as a dip or on an open-faced sandwich and cover with some mozzarella


For Labor Day weekend, Chris, Neil and I went for a lovely hike in Ansel Adams Wilderness. As that's in the Sierra Nevadas and we live around SF Bay, we had to go across the Central Valley. And my, even growing up in farmland in the Midwest doesn't prepare you for the farms of Central Valley. Fields and orchards and orchards and fields! So vastly many different crops that you'd never expect to be able to grow right next to each other!

Among other things, we picked up a bag full of roasted pistachios. Seeing as it's been so long since I've had baklava, I knew just what to do with my largess of pistachios, too. After sifting through a few recipes, I found the perfect one for me. I got the oranges fresh from my orange tree, shelled all those pistachios (a bit of an undertaking, best done a cup at a time or with more than one person), and set to. It was heavenly!

Pistachio Baklava with Orange-Cardamom Syrup
adapted from Molly Wizenburg via Bon Appétit

1 1/4 cups plus 1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
12 ounces shelled pistachios, toasted (scant 3 cups)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
30-40 13x9-inch sheets phyllo dough (2/3 pound, give or take)

1. If your pistachios aren't already roasted and shelled, it will likely take you about 3 hours to do both

2. Chop your toasted and shelled pistachios until you like the texture (for me, it's rather fine, but some people like a larger nut to bite into in their baklava)

3. Mix the nuts with 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F

5. Melt the butter a half stick at a time during this next step, otherwise the last of it will end up quite milky (alternatively, use ghee)

6. Lay out the phyllo dough according to the instructions on the box (usually this entails laying it out flat and covering it with a damp cloth inbetween pulling off sheets) and trim if necessary (I don't as I like a little extra phyllo up the sides of my pan)

7. Butter the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking pan and layer the phyllo dough in, buttering each (or every other) sheet until you have 8 to 14 layers

8. Spread out one half of the nut mixture, then repeat layering in phyllo (be very gentle with the first layer above the nuts as it's easy to poke through)

9. Repeat step 8

10. As you can't cut phyllo after it's baked without crushing it, you'll cut the triangles now, leaving a thin layer on bottom uncut

11. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown

12. During the latter half hour while the baklava bakes, you'll make the syrup. Bring the juice, 1 1/4 cups sugar and cardamom to a boil and reduce to 1 1/2 cups total liquid (if you add much more than that to the baklava, it will be soggy)

13. Once you pull the baklava from the oven, you'll pour the syrup over it (it will bubble a lot!), then let the baklava cool

Store baklava at room temperature at least overnight so that it can finish soaking up all the syrup. Then put it in an air-tight container and store either at room temperature (can last at least a week I'm told, though mine has never made it that long) or in the fridge.