Caponata - Julie’s recipe for the farmers’ market harvest
Book note: the good folks at The Local Beet are giving away a copy of Farmers’ Markets of the Heartland. Enter by clicking over to comment. And I’ll be at Chicago’s Green City Market on Saturday, September 15 to sign copies.
With that important business taken care of, let’s move to the kitchen, shall we?
One of the most rewarding parts of road-tripping across the Midwest to research my book, was connecting chefs who share my dedication to farmers.
Like Julie Ridlon of St. Louis, who has Chanterelle Catering and also founded a farmers market in that fine city. She helped guide me to great growers and markets.
More important, Chef Julie converted me to eggplant.
I’ve never been much of a fan, and Julie told me getting fresh eggplant make all the difference. So here we are, almost greeting autumn, where eggplant and zucchini and tomatoes are groaning on the farm table, and I can’t get enough of it.
Thus it’s time to make caponata, a flavorful Italian salad that’s perfect for making after work because it’s SO easy, and also relaxing with all the chopping to do. And it’s easily adaptable to what you like and what’s in season. Julie likes it with goat cheese on a baguette. I like it straight from the jar.
And I’m also sharing a photo of Lauro from our visit to the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market in St. Louis, where we met the good people at Salume Beddu, 4 Seasons Bakery, Ivan’s Fig Farm, Ringhausen Orchards and the local roasters at Kuva Coffee. You can tell we had a great time.
So get out to your market and find a new food to convert to. Enjoy.
Caponata, Italian Eggplant Salad
Chef Julie Ridlon, Chanterelle Catering, St. Louis, Missouri
Makes about six cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onion, peeled and chopped (red or yellow)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large eggplant or 4 smaller eggplants (peel half the skin with a potato peeler and leave the rest for texture), cut into ½-inch cubes
3 - 4 summer squash cut into ½-inch cubes (try any combination of zucchini, zephyr or crookneck)
1 - 2 red, yellow or orange peppers, seeded and cut into cubes
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1/2″ pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 - 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
3 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
½ cup raisins (use golden or dark raisins, or currants)
¼ cup capers drained, or 1/3 cup pitted calamata olives
8 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
Sauté the onion, garlic, eggplant, squash, peppers and celery for eight to 10 minutes, stirring to make sure it does not burn, until fork tender. Depending on ripeness, it may take an additional five to10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
As the vegetables cook, whisk together the cider vinegar, brown sugar, thyme and chili flakes, if using, in a small bowl. Toss together in a large bowl the tomatoes, raisins, capers or olives and basil. Stir in cooked eggplant mixture, and taste for balance, adding additional vinegar, salt or sugar. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.