Almost the first thing I do when I hear about a recipe is think about how I can adapt it to what I would like. I'm fussy, and almost no recipe is going to suit me straight off the page. Dinner tonight was a prime example. I'd seen something, somewhere about Caponata, a Sicilian Aubergine (Eggplant, Aussies) stew that's traditionally served cold or as an entree or accompaniment. It's supposed to have herb vinegar, capers, olives and parsley stalks, and has a unique salty, tangy flavour which mixes gorgeously with the creamy texture of the Aubergine.
What I made tonight would probably not really even be classified as a Caponata, but here's what I did;
One red or green capsicum
five tomatoes, ripe as possible
Red onion, two small or one large
One large Aubergine (purple, if possible)
Two small or one large zucchini
half a tablespoon of oregano
half a tablespoon of mixed herbs
One large cob loaf
Red Wine Vinegar or similar
Two cloves of garlic
Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
Chop Aubergine into large pieces, add to hot pan with two tablespoons of olive oil with chopped zuchinni. If your tomatoes are not very ripe, I would add them now as well. Toss until Aubergine well coated and starting to brown. Add Red onion and garlic. I added probably a teaspoon of salt at this point as well. Add two or three glugs of red wine vinegar at this point, and see how you go for consistency. Too much will result in sogginess, not enough and the eggplant could become tough.
Once the onions start going clear as onions are wont to do and the red wine vinegar evaporated, add the tomatoes if very ripe. I would add the capsicum at this point to have something with a crunchier texture
Grab your cob loaf and cut a square from the top so you've got a lid. Scoop out the middle to make as much room as you need for the stew. If it's a very fresh loaf, you probably won't even need to scoop. Add some cheese to the bottom
Shadow is an optional extra, natch.
Add the scooped out bread, torn, to the stew, mix through and scoop the stew into the bread
The cheese at the bottom should provide the bread with a bit of stability, but this is why you don't want it to be dripping soggy, just nice and moist.
Put the lid back on and put on a flat tray in the oven for seven minutes, or until bread starts to brown
Remove from oven and slice with a bread knife (The temptation might be to use a sharp knife so you don't drag at the stew, but that it just going to make your life difficult with a baked loaf) into desired serving size. This is a very filling meal, so less is most certainly more. The serving below was about three times more than either of us could eat, and it's really not that big a plate.
It turned out better than I'd hoped. Moist but not too moist, creamy, tangy and filling. Apart from the eggplant and red onion (Which really made it for me), you could use any vegie you've got lying around in this. You could substitute brown vinegar at a pinch (using far less) , use a Pana de Casa for authenticity, and add the capers and olives if you are actually serving it as a side dish. I honestly think combined with the vinegar that capers and olives would be too much flavour and would take the subtlety from it, but certainly that's how it would be done traditionally. I would not advise balsamic vinegar. Aubergines soak up oil and vinegar like bread. The flavour would be overpowering in my opinion.
Another idea I'd have pinched from Ro if I'd seen it in time (the cheese at the bottom I nicked from her, the cob loaf I'd already decided on) was using small dinner rolls instead of a cob loaf, or if you're serving as an entree' and don't want to be fiddly, using a ramakin or souflee dish and forgo the bread. The torn bread really soaked up some of the liquid though, so I'd recommend throwing some in, anyway.
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