Caponata (Sicilian-style summer vegetables)

Photo of eggplant dish caponata

Bursting with fresh summer flavors, Caponata is one of my favorite dishes to make when eggplant, tomatoes, and basil come into season.

I first tasted Caponata at a class on Italian side dishes at Cook Like An Italian led by Monica Pesoli. She cooked each main ingredient separately, then simmered them together with white wine vinegar and fresh herbs. Caponata is full of distinct flavors that go perfectly together.

More recently, I’ve been going through Lidia Bastianich’s 2017 cookbook Lidia’s Celebrate Like An Italian and discovered her Caponata recipe. The recipe below is based on the one in her book. You can serve it as a side dish (warm or chilled) or as an appetizer (after it is cooled, chop into small pieces and serve on crostini).

Caponata (Sicilian Style Summer Vegetables)
 
Caponata is the perfect Italian dish to make when eggplant, tomatoes, and fresh basil are in season. Enjoy as a side dish (warm or chilled) or appetizer (chopped and served on crostini).
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium eggplant, ½ inch cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini, ½ inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, peeled, seeded, cut into ½ inch squares
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup pitted green olives, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons organic sugar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
Instructions
  1. Heat large sauté pan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add ¼ cup olive oil, then add eggplant in a single layer. You can do two batches if all of the eggplant does not fit in a single layer. Sauté eggplant, letting it turn golden brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large prep bowl.
  2. Add remaining ¼ cup olive oil, and repeat with zucchini. Remove zucchini with a slotted spoon (to leave oil in the pan) to the bowl with the eggplant.
  3. Add onion and celery to the pan and sauté about 5 minutes.
  4. Add red bell pepper, raisins, olives, capers, pine nuts, sea salt, and red pepper flakes and sauté until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes, white wine vinegar, and sugar (if using). Simmer until liquid has evaporated and tomatoes are well incorporated.
  6. Add fresh herbs and toss together.

 

The last few summer menus I made with caponata included:

  • Wild salmon, polenta, caponata, and grilled broccolini
  • Pacific rock cod with capers and white wine sauce, risotto, caponata, and caprese salad
  • Ocean perch with white wine sauce, basmati rice, caponata, and caprese salad

Photo of eggplant dish caponataPhoto of Italian meal with caponata

Some other summertime dishes you may want to try:

Provençal Vegetable Soup with Tomato-Basil Pesto (Soupe Au Pistou)

Grilled Halibut in Cedar Wraps

Baby Arugula Salad with Berries and Lemongrass Mint Vinaigrette

Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps (V, GF, soy-free)

Southwestern Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

 

Summertime Buckwheat Salad with Lemon Dill Dressing

 

Buon appetito!

 

Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps

Asian mushroom lettuce wraps are the perfect start to an Asian-themed meal or any gathering. I brought these to a potluck last week held in honor of a friend visiting from Asheville, NC. By the end of dinner, all that was left was one lonely lettuce leaf!

I wanted to make these lettuce wraps healthier than the restaurant variety, so added more vegetables, and left out the soy, sugar, and gluten! Instead of soy sauce or tamari I used Coco Aminos (I like the Big Tree Farms brand) which is naturally sweet and savory.

If you like your filling a little sweeter, you can always add a dash of maple syrup or agave, but you probably won’t need to.

 

Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps (V, GF)
 
Prep time
Cook time
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This recipes is a vegan, gluten-free version of Chicken Lettuce Wraps served at Asian restaurants.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Asian, Vegetarian
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons untoasted sesame oil
  • ½ cup leek, spring onion, or sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 3 cups mushrooms (crimini, shiitake, and/or oyster), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup carrots, small dice
  • 1 cup zucchini, small dice
  • ½ cup water chestnuts or celery, finely chopped or sliced
  • ½ cup bamboo shoots, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (Big Tree Farm brand recommended)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 head green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, or Romaine lettuce
Instructions
  1. Heat large skillet or wok on medium-high heat. Make sure all ingredients are prepped so they can be added to the pan quickly. Add sesame oil and swirl to coat pan.
  2. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Sauté for about a minute. Reduce heat a bit to prevent burning.
  3. Add carrots, zucchini, and another pinch of salt and sauté a few minutes more.
  4. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are cooked through.
  5. Add water chestnuts and bamboo shoots.
  6. Season with brown rice vinegar, coconut aminos, and sea salt (to taste).
  7. Put mushroom filling into a serving bowl in the middle of a large plate or platter. Garnish with cilantro and green onion. Place lettuce leaves around the bowl or on a separate plate. To serve, take a lettuce leaf, place a spoonful or two of mushroom filling onto the leaf, and eat like a taco.
Variations
  1. For a heartier appetizer or main dish, add ½ lb. cooked chicken thigh cut into bite-sized pieces. Adjust seasonings.

Chef Rachel Zierzow is available for group classes, private dinners, and corporate team building sessions. Contact her below to find out more.

Chickpea Hummus with Lemon and Parsley

Although it takes more effort to cook your own beans from scratch, the result is well worth it. I recommend soaking 2-3 cups of dry chickpeas so that you can use some of them in this recipe (about 2.5 cups cooked chickpeas) and you will have plenty leftover to use in soup, for snacks, or to sprinkle on salads. This recipe uses olive oil rather than tahini (sesame butter). The result is a lighter more Mediterranean style hummus.

Chickpea Hummus with Lemon and Parsley
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry chickpeas
  • spring or filtered water
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-inch piece of kombu
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil, for garnish
  • New Mexico chili powder, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Rinse chickpeas and place in glass bowl. Cover with water about 1-1/2 inches above the chickpeas and soak 6-8 hours.
  2. Drain the chickpeas and place in a pressure cooker with enough fresh water to cover 2 inches above the beans.
  3. Boil for 10 minutes uncovered. Skim off foam that collects on the surface.
  4. Add garlic and kombu. Place lid on the pressure cooker and allow to come up to pressure.Turn heat down to low, and cook chickpeas for 18 minutes.
  5. Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally. Once the lid can be removed, add sea salt and simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes.
  6. Strain chickpeas and garlic (reserving cooking liquid) and place in food processor.
  7. Place lemon juice, lemon zest, and umeboshi vinegar in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  8. Add olive oil and blend again until smooth.
  9. Adjust thickness by gradually adding some of the cooking liquid (if needed).
  10. Adjust seasonings (add more lemon juice or sea salt if needed).
  11. Add parsley and pulse food processor just to combine.
  12. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and a few sprinkles of chile powder before serving.
Variations
  1. Boil chickpeas in a heavy bottomed pot instead of pressure cooking. Cooking time may take more than an hour for chickpeas to become soft before adding sea salt.
  2. Use tahini (sesame butter) in place of olive oil.

 

Rainbow Veggie Platter with Parsley-Tahini Sauce

blanched salad, rainbow veggie platter

This time of summer can be the hardest time to get inspired to cook. Here’s an idea for a highly nutritious veggie platter in rainbow colors that is fresh and light. It is simple enough to serve for a casual lunch with children, but could also serve as a beautiful appetizer for a party.

Kids love to dip the veggies into a sauce or hummus that you can put in a bowl in the middle of the vegetables. Here we used red cabbage, carrots, cauliflower florets, collard greens and stems, and a parsley-tahini sauce. In macrobiotic cooking, this is called a “blanched salad,” which is comprised of a root vegetable (carrots), round vegetable (cabbage, cauliflower), and a leafy green vegetable (collard greens). The vegetables should be fresh, vibrant, and crisp– very different from steamed or boiled vegetables.

Rainbow Veggie Platter with Parsley-Tahini Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Delicious, colorful, and healthy summer appetizer.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
Vegetables
  • 2 large carrots, cut into sticks
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems in rounds, leaves in strips
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • ½ head red cabbage, cut into strips
Parsley Tahini Sauce
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ½ cup spring or filtered water
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoons organic umeboshi vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon shoyu or tamari
  • 2 tablepoons parsley leaves, chopped finely
Instructions
Vegetable Platter
  1. Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. The bigger the pot, the more boiling water to cook your veggies very quickly (in seconds).
  2. Dip vegetables into boiling water, starting with carrots, then collards, then cauliflower, then red cabbage. Blanch a handful at a time, and remove after a few seconds with a metal skimmer onto a big plate or platter to cool. Keep vegetables separate so that you can arrange them after they have cooled. Make sure pot comes back up to a boil before adding the next handful.
  3. Arrange the cooled vegetables on a platter with a dipping sauce.
Parsley-tahini sauce
  1. Whisk ingredients together in medium-sized bowl. Add more water if you’d like the sauce to be a little thinner.