Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Caponata in Radicchio Cups

adapted from Michael Chiarello's recipe:  Radicchio Lettuce Cups with Caponata

I  have made this recipe many times over the past several years and it is a favorite for serving at parties because it is a little "something different" that makes use of the bounty of eggplants we seem to have each Summer. Being Italian, I grew up eating caponata but this is new to many. My mother always adds celery and pine nuts to hers, so you will see the addition of them, below, to Michael Chiarello's recipe. I also removed the caper juice and the reduced the capers, in the interest of keeping the sodium down. I replaced flavor with the addition of lemon zest and I guarantee that you will not miss the salt.  One tip that I highly recommend is that you don't try and omit the anchovies.  I promise, you will not notice they are there and they really are the secret ingredient in this dish!

This is a refreshing appetizer or summer side that also travels well (which is why it was originally featured in a camping episde)


Radicchio Lettuce Cups:
18 whole radicchio leaves
10 cups ice water


About 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced onion (1/4-inch dice)
freshly ground black pepper
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 teaspoons chili flakes
 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 eggplant (about 1 pound) peeled and diced into small pieces
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon roughly chopped capers
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped (I took a short cut and used the stuff in a jar)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 - Soak lettuce leaves for about 10 minutes in ice water to reduce bitterness. Wrap in damp paper towel to keep moist until ready to serve.

2 - In large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and saute briefly until brown. Add the onion and brown lightly, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add a pinch of fresh ground pepper. Continue to cook until the onion is well browned, about 5 minutes. Add the anchovies and cook and stir until they melt into the onion. Add the chili flakes, and stir and scrape all around the pan. Add 1/4 cup of the vinegar, return the heat to high, and boil until reduced and thick, 1 to 2 minutes.

3 - In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the eggplant and saute until browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Saute only a small bunch at a time, to avoid letting the eggplant boil in its own juices. If the pan gets too dry, add more olive oil as the cooking progresses - if you add too much olive oil early in the process, the eggplant will absorb all of it and still need more. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan well so nothing burns. Toward the end, add celery (I like to add this late so it retains crunch) and toasted pine nuts.  Add lemon zest to season.  Scrape into a bowl.

4 - Add the garlic-anchovy mixture to the eggplant with the capers and remaining vinegar. Stir well, then scrape into a bowl. Stir in the roasted peppers and parsley and taste again for seasoning. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

5 - When ready to assemble, place 1 to 2 tablespoons of caponata in chilled lettuce cups. Wrap into ball and enjoy.

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