“For me, capunata [as caponata is known in Sicily] encompasses the history of Sicily in one dish, as it contains ingredients left behind from past periods and conquerers.” Alfredo La Spina, Bar Idda, Brunswick East, Vic
- 140 ml olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 inner white celery stalks, stems cut into 1cm dice, leaves torn
- 1 firm William pear, cored and diced
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 eggplant, cut into 2cm dice
- 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, scored, blanched, peeled, seeded, cut into 1cm dice
- 30 gm salted baby capers, rinsed and drained
- 100 gm pitted Sicilian green olives
- To serve: crostini
Mushrooms with basil and ricotta salata
- 700 ml white wine vinegar
- 1 lemon, halved
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 500 gm field or pine mushrooms
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- To serve: torn basil and finely grated ricotta salata (see note)
- 1Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery (reserve leaves), stir occasionally until tender (4-5 minutes). Add pear, stir occasionally until tender but still holding shape (3-4 minutes). Add vinegar, sugar and cinnamon, stir until sugar dissolves, season and set aside.
- 2Heat 50ml olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add half the eggplant, cook until golden (6-8 minutes), add to celery mixture and set aside. Repeat with remaining oil and eggplant. Add tomato to pan and cook until tender (4-5 minutes). Add capers and olives, then add to eggplant and celery mixture. Season to taste, adjust vinegar and sugar to taste and cool to room temperature. Capunata will keep refrigerated for 5 days. Bring to room temperature to serve.
- 3For mushrooms with basil and ricotta salata, bring vinegar, lemon, garlic, bay leaf and 3 litres water to the boil, then reduce heat to low and season to taste. Add mushrooms, increase heat to high and return to the boil. Strain (discard liquid), pat dry on absorbent paper, coarsely chop and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add mushrooms, stir occasionally until golden (3-4 minutes) and season to taste. Serve hot with basil and ricotta salata, with capunata and crostini passed separately.
Note Ricotta salata, a salted, pressed and dried form of ricotta, is available from selected delicatessens. This recipe is from the May 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.