Caponata Agrodolce

The French can have their ratatouille, which in my opinion is often too mushy.  For me, the best thing to do with eggplant is caponata – in this case, caponata tossed with a balsamic reduction that heightens its flavor profile and becomes something I crave by itself as a light lunch.

I found the basic recipe years ago – one that made a massive amount for a crowd – and modified it enough to make it my own.  And now, thanks to the Balsamic Glaze available at TJ’s, it’s not necessary to boil down your own balsamic vinegar and sugar for the agrodolce…much easier to just use the prepared stuff for that final crucial step:

CAPONATA AGRODOLCE

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INGREDIENTS: 4-6 tbsp EVOO; 1 medium eggplant cut into 1/4″ dice, about 1 lb; 2 small zucchini quarters and then cut into 1/4″ pieces; 1 medium sweet onion chopped into 1/4″ pieces; 2 ribs celery cut into 1/4″ slices; 1 very plump garlic clove thinly sliced; 1/3 cup thinly sliced roasted rep peppers; 1/3 cup drained capers; 1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives; 1/3 cup golden raisins; S&P to taste; 2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley; 2 tbsp julienned fresh basil; 1/2 tsp dried oregano; 2/3 cup marinara sauce; 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze (or make your own by reducing down 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar with 2 tbsp sugar until you have 1/4 cup)

TECHNIQUE:  in a large deep skillet or electric frypan, sauté the eggplant, zucchini and celery in most of the EVOO for about 10 minutes until softened completely.  Remove to a very large bowl.  Add a bit more oil to the skillet and sauté the onions and garlic until softened.  Add that to the others vegetables in the bowl,  and then combine with the olives, capers, roasted peppers, and raisins.  Add the balsamic glaze and toss to coat.  Add S&P to taste, then the parsley, oregano, basil, and marinara sauce and stir to combine.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.  The flavors truly come alive after a few hours in the fridge.

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MOROCCAN CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, FIGS, OLIVES & PRESERVED LEMON

 

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When life gives me preserved lemons like the ones I happened upon at Trader Joe’s yesterday, and when Whole Foods has a special on Bell & Evans whole air-chilled chickens for 1/2 price, I can feel a Moroccan chicken dinner in my future.

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Moroccan, Tunisian, North African – whatever you choose to call it – the spice profile of this cuisine calls to me often enough that my supply of essential spices is always available.  Cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, cumin, cloves, ras al hanout, and of course fresh garlic, ginger root and shallots.  Preserving lemons takes planning and patience, even with some quickie methods I’ve found in a pinch.  Diced fresh lemon can also be used if necessary, but they’ll retain the acidity that preserving leaches out.  This little jar of preserved lemon slices for under $3 is something I hope TJ’s keeps in stock, because once you find something there that you love it can disappear without notice based on “supplier” issues.

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Spice-rubbed and ready to refrigerate for a few hours

The whole chickens necessitated a major adaptation of recipes in my collection, which I usually make with just thighs, either boneless or on the bone with skin.  The finished dish is now sitting in my kitchen waiting for the basmati rice and Fatoush salad to go-with.  The aromas will keep me inspired!

MOROCCAN CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, FIGS, OLIVES & PRESERVED LEMON

(2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, and each half breast cut in two)

2 T extra virgin olive oil + a bit more for sautéing the chicken

1 large garlic clove minced

1 T minced ginger root

1 t turmeric

1 t cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp ground cloves

¾ t cardamom

¾ t coriander

1 t ras al hanout (optional)

½ t kosher salt

½ t freshly ground black pepper

½ cup minced shallots

16 small black mission figs, halved

12 small pitted prunes

handful of green olives with pits (such as Castelvetrano or picholine)

1 medium-large sweet onion coarsely chopped

½ cup white wine or Vermouth

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup diced preserved lemons

1 T honey

Optional: Finely chopped cilantro and/or parsley for garnish

Early in the day, toss the cut up chicken with the olive oil in a large high-sided dish, such as a 13×9 baking dish.  Combine the next 11 ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the chicken.  Add the next 4 ingredients and toss to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Preheat a large electric skillet on medium, add another 1-2 T olive oil, brush the solids off the chicken, leaving everything else in your dish.  Brown the chicken on all sides until skin is nicely browned, and remove to a plate.  Deglaze the pan with the wine or Vermouth, add the chopped onion, and sauté briefly to soften.  Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the shallot/fig/prune/olive mixture and the diced preserved lemon.  Return the chicken and any juices to the pan, turn to coat with the sauce, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove chicken while you reduce the sauce with the 1T of honey, then return to the pan to keep warm for serving.  Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and/or parsley if desired.

Caponata Agrodolce

The French can have their ratatouille, which in my opinion is often too mushy.  For me, the best thing to do with eggplant is caponata – in this case, caponata tossed with a balsamic reduction that heightens its flavor profile and becomes something I crave by itself as a light lunch…and did so just now before posting this.

I found the basic recipe years ago – one that made a massive amount for a crowd – and modified it enough to make it my own.  And now, thanks to the Balsamic Glaze available at TJ’s, it’s not necessary to boil down your own balsamic vinegar and sugar for the agrodolce…much easier to just use the prepared stuff for that final crucial step:

CAPONATA AGRODOLCE

IMG_0597 (1)

INGREDIENTS: 4-6 tbsp EVOO; 1 medium eggplant cut into 1/4″ dice, about 1 lb; 2 small zucchini quarters and then cut into 1/4″ pieces; 1 medium sweet onion chopped into 1/4″ pieces; 2 ribs celery cut into 1/4″ slices; 1 very plump garlic clove thinly sliced; 1/3 cup thinly sliced roasted rep peppers; 1/3 cup drained capers; 1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives; 1/3 cup golden raisins; S&P to taste; 2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley; 2 tbsp julienned fresh basil; 1/2 tsp dried oregano; 2/3 cup marinara sauce; 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze (or make your own by reducing down 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar with 2 tbsp sugar until you have 1/4 cup)

TECHNIQUE:  in a large deep skillet or electric frypan, sauté the eggplant, zucchini and celery in most of the EVOO for about 10 minutes until softened completely.  Remove to a very large bowl.  Add a bit more oil to the skillet and sauté the onions and garlic until softened.  Add that to the others vegetables in the bowl,  and then combine with the olives, capers, roasted peppers, and raisins.  Add the balsamic glaze and toss to coat.  Add S&P to taste, then the parsley, oregano, basil, and marinara sauce and stir to combine.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.  The flavors truly come alive after a few hours in the fridge.