Thirty Minute Thursdays: Not-So-Traditional Caponata

Snow. In October. I know that’s not so uncommon in parts of this country, but for here, it’s a little disheartening. True, I may be speaking too soon – right now the precipitation is cold, wet rain, but the temperatures are preparing to plummet and I can feel the rain clouds getting ready to turn into snow clouds. I almost feel as though I’ve been robbed of autumn: it was so warm throughout September, and just when the leaves were turning and the crisp air came in, we get hit with this unseasonably cold front. My meals have consisted of chili, soup, and more soup, and the bundles of firewood at the grocery store have come very close to finding their way into my cart.

Enter Rachael Ray’s Emmanuel Nini’s Caponata – and if that’s not enough of a mouthful for you, I don’t know what is! This is another reliable recipe from her Classic 30 Minute Meals cookbook, but not one that I went stark-raving-mad over. It was a standard, perfect-for-cold-weather meal: warm and comforting, though not wildly seasoned so ultimately pretty simple. Every once in a while you get a sweet burst from a hidden raisin, which is a really nice surprise. I ate it with some toast, but I think it would make an even better chunky, hearty sauce for pasta. Later on I snacked on some leftovers with added parmesan cheese and a dollop of plain greek yogurt, and then that meal had me at hello! It was creamy, and absolutely killer. I broke tradition, I know, and may not even be allowed to call it a caponata anymore, but I’m including that dollop of yogurt in the recipe below because it was fantastic.

I took some other liberties, nixing the capers and olives (those pesky salt monsters!), using all green peppers because my poor little red one was infested with mold when I cut into it, and opting for a full can of diced tomatoes with added time for reducing/thickening because when you try to scale down the recipe, you’re left with two half-containers of different tomato products.  The only other change I would make, and it’s really not so much a change, would be to serve it with a fresh side salad for extra crunch and freshness.

Not-Really-Anymore-Emmanuel Nini’s Caponata, adapted from Rachael Ray’s Classic 30 Minute Meals
Yield: 6-8 servings

The Ingredients
4 large cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup (packed) golden raisins
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
1 medium eggplant, chopped
1 celery heart, chopped
32 ounces diced tomatoes
13 ounces crushed tomatoes
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 ounces pine nuts, toasted
1/3 – ½ cup plain non-fat greek yogurt (optional)
¼ cup parmesan cheese (optional)
cooked pasta, for serving

The Method
Heat the garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium, and sauté until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add in the raisins, peppers, onion, eggplant, and celery. Cook, covered, while stirring occasionally, until the eggplant begins to break down, 7-10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and parsley and cook long enough to heat through, then turn off the heat. Stir in the yogurt and cheese, if using, and serve hot over pasta (or any temperature with bread). Sprinkle with pine nuts just before serving.


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