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!

 

Salade Niçoise with Dijon Vinaigrette

photo of nicoise salad

This vibrant and delicious Salade niçoise was originally introduced to me by my mother Louise, who is an amazing cook and liked to teach me things from her French heritage. We first made this salad together for a holiday celebration at my school French class around 1987. I rediscovered this timeless salad several years ago, and enjoy making it a little differently each time. The dressing is a very basic vinaigrette that gets its distinctive taste from Dijon mustard. Check out the variations in the recipe and photos for more ideas.

Apparently, there are very strong feelings about what should or should not be included in a Salade niçoise. See the commentary on wikipedia for a run down of the “rules” if you want to be a “traditionalist” when it comes to making this salad! For instance, some defend that there should be no cooked vegetables in this salad. And it should have anchovies and eggs. I say, make it however you like it, and enjoy it! And maybe you can just call it “my favorite salad” if someone criticizes you for not making the authentic niçoise. 

Salade Niçoise
 
This beautiful composed salad is a meal in itself, especially if you add some large white beans, quinoa, or tuna. You can arrange the salad onto ndividual plates or one large platter.
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: French
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
Dressing
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
Salad
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes
  • 4 cups mixed field greens or 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts, sliced in half
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced or 1 cup baby tomatoes
  • ½ cup kalamata or niçoise olives, pitted and sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar or lemon juice with mustard. Add a few pinches of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil with a few pinches of sea salt. Add green beans and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain green beans and spread them out on a plate or platter to cool.
  3. Scrub potatoes and peel away any blemishes. Place potatoes and a few pinches of sea salt in a pot and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and let simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain and place into a bowl. When cool, slice large potatoes in half or into several pieces, if desired.
  4. Arrange lettuce on large platter or individual plates. Place green beans, potatoes, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes on top of lettuce in distinct rows or mounds. Sprinkle olives and capers over the top. Drizzle the entire salad with some of the dressing, then sprinkle chopped parsley over the top.
  5. Serve with roasted salmon or canned tuna packed in olive oil, if desired.
Note:
  1. If you are able to find colorful fingerling potatoes, such as red or purple varieties, these look very beautiful in the salad.
Variations:
  1. Add cooked white beans such as giant Peruvian limas or butter beans.
  2. Add quinoa or quinoa with chickpeas.
  3. Omit cucumbers if not in season.
  4. Add 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half.

Here are some other variations of the salad I have tried in recent years.

With golden fingerling potatoes and baby San Marzano tomatoes:

photo of salade niçoise

With quinoa and chickpeas and roasted salmon:

photo of salade niçoise with quinoa, chickpeas, and salmon

Arranged in a radial pattern, with plenty of artichokes!

photo of salade niçoise

I hope you enjoy making this salad, and please let me know if you come up with some new and delicious versions!

Smashed Potatoes with Tomato Sauce Grassoise

Summer tomatoes! This is the best time to cook with your homegrown or farmer’s market vine-ripened tomatoes. Try this simple but elegant recipe by Chef Alain Braux, originally from the Provence region of France. Chef Braux is a French Chef by training and a Culinary Nutritionist by passion. He is the lead instructor for the Food as Medicine course at The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts. He is also an award-winning, Amazon best-seller food and health author.

Feel free to visit Chef Braux’s website, A Votre SantéMedia PageBooks Page. You can also find him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.

Smashed Potato with Tomato Sauce Grassoise
 
This simple yet striking recipe smells of my Provençal countryside. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: French
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
Potatoes
  • 8 small fingerlings potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 quart water, boiling
  • sea salt, coarse
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
Tomatoes
  • 6 organic tomatoes, peeled
  • 2 quarts water, boiling
Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, cut in ½, crushed
  • 1 shallot, minced finely
  • 1 pinch sea salt.
  • two turns of freshly ground pepper
  • 2 piquillos, finely cut
  • 1 tablespoons capers
  • 6-8 pitted black olives, chopped
Small salad
  • a few leaves mixed greens
  • 5 mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon flat parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chives
Lemon dressing for salad mix
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • crushed black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
Smashed potatoes
  1. Bring salted water to boil. Cook until tender. Drain. Place back in pot. Crush with potato masher, olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Tomatoes
  1. Bring water to boil. Cut a small cross at the bottom if each tomato. Boil for one minute then drop in iced water. Drain. Peel. Cut in half. Take seeds out. Dice small.
Sauce
  1. In medium saucepan, heat olive oil at medium heat. Add garlic and shallot to pot 1 Tbsp olive oil. Cook until translucid. Add cut tomatoes. Add piquillos, capers and black olives. Allow to simmer to reduce liquid. When cooked, added chopped fresh herbs. Mix in. Reserve.
Salad
  1. Pick a few salad leaves with herbs. Toss them lightly with lemon dressing.
Plating
  1. Using a metal ring, place crushed potatoes inside the ring to form a galette. Top with tomato sauce Grassoise. Decorate with a few mint leaves.
Finish
  1. Add salad/dressing on the side of potato/tomato dish. Voila!

 

Greek Salad with Creamy Cashew-Dill Dressing

Greek Salad with Creamy Cashew-Dill Dressing
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Greek
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
Salad
  • 6 cups romaine lettuce, rinsed, spun, and chopped
  • 1 ripe tomato, sliced (or 1 cup grape tomatoes)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • ¾ kalamata olives, halved
  • ¼ cup red onion, sliced
Dressing
  • ½ cup cashews, soaked in hot water for 1 hour
  • ½ cup spring or filtered water
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt, to taste
Instructions
Salad
  1. Place greens onto a platter or individual salad bowls. Decorate greens with tomato slices, cucumber slices, olives, and red onion.
Dressing
  1. Drain cashews and discard soaking water.
  2. Blend cashews in blender or VitaMix with water, garlic, scallions, lemon juice, and umeboshi vinegar until smooth.
  3. With blender on low speed, add in olive oil and blend until incorporated.
  4. Add dill, mint, and oregano and blend on low for a few seconds.
  5. Add a pinch or two of sea salt, if needed, to balance flavors.
  6. Pour dressing into a bowl or creamer to serve alongside salad.
Variation
  1. Serve with goat feta or homemade tofu feta cheese on the side.