Caponata/Fish Caponata and Lipari, Sicily

I love caponata and cook it quite often (as I posted in June). This time, however, I made it a little bit different – more Sicilian and summery with vegetable and fish in season. (If you are a vegetarian/vegan or not in the mood for fish, just omit it and add some more vegetables since this recipe is just to combine caponata and fried fish.)

Well ripened and juicy tomatoes at their best are abundant now, so I made Passata di Pomodoro myself to add in. This intense tomato purée is absolutely tasty – natural flavours, especially sweetness, are brought out. You would love to use the passata not only for caponata but also for pasta etc. – I’m going to make Moussaka with this passta and aubergines below.

San Marzano tomatoes to bottle

We are in fresh swordfish months here and it has arrived in stores. In Sicily, swordfish, also in season, is eaten well  and there are various dishes: Involtini di Pesce Spada (stuffed swordfish rolls), Pesce Spada al Salmoriglio (grilled swordfish with lemon Salmoriglio sauce), Pasta con Pesce Spada e Melanzane (pasta with swordfish and aubergine) etc… and of course, Caponata di Pesce Spada. Yes, I’m posting a caponata with swordfish recipe today.

Aubergine Season! aubergines suitable for deep frying: White Bell, Black Beauty, Zebra

There various caponata recipes exist in Sicily with local variations: with pine nuts, almonds or pistachio, mint or basil, sugar or honey; with or without garlic, raisins, peppers (capsicums), anchovy are the examples. You might think ‘!!’ or ‘??’ but adding cacao (cocoa powder or grated chocolate) is also one of the varieties. I’m not sure if this is authentic or not. My Sicilian friend in Palermo hasn’t heard of it and says it may be a new recipe while some mention on the web it’s from Syracuse and Catania areas – I though it might be from Modica, a Baroque town famous for its chocolate.

I tried to enhance the flavours to make it summery adding some more vinegar, for example. The first experiment lacked depth. Honey was added instead of sugar, but not enough and still something missing. I was thinking about using balsamic vinegar instead…. After some more experiments, settled on the two recipes:  i) with unsweetened cocoa powder (thick and rich) and ii) with raisins soaked in red wine vinegar (mildly sweet). Seems my caponatas are a melting pot of Sicily!  😀

Enjoy the summery caponata(s)!

Ingredients

(for 2 – 3 servings; for 4 as antipasto)

for the Passata
1 kg tomato
300 ml/cc water

for the Caponata
500 g aubergine (preferably ‘Black Beauty’), cut into 2.5 cm dice
1 tsp salt

200 g swordfish, cut into 2 cm wide pieces
1/2 lemon, squeezed
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

80 g celery, cut into 1 cm dice
vegetable oil to deep fry (I used sunflower oil)

1tbsp olive oil
120 g onion, sliced
100 g red pepper/capsicum, cut into 2cm thick slices
1 tbsp caper in sea salt, rinsed, soaked for 10 min and drained
50 g pitted olive, halved
200 ml/cc passata
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 tbsp red wine vinegar (acidity 7%)
1 tsp honey (I used orange blossom honey)
i) 1 tsp (a little less than 1 tsp) unsweetened cocoa powder  or ii) 20 g raisins
salt and pepper (to taste)

20 g almond
fresh basil (to garnish)

salted capers  and dried oregano from Sicily, and homemade passata.

Method

  1. For the passata (Prepare in advance or while salting aubergines), place the tomatoes in a large pot with the water. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from the water and drain for a while, at least 30 minutes, until water doesn’t come out of the tomatoes (Do not press or squeeze!). Strain through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using a wooden spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Put the passata in a pan and cook over small heat for 15 minutes or until thickened stirring constantly.
  2. Place the aubergines in a colander, rub with the salt and let it sit for about an hour. Before using, squeeze and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Rub the fish with the lemon juice and leave for 10 minutes. Pat dry with paper towel, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry until cooked through and lightly golden. Set aside.
  4. In a pot, bring the vegetable oil to 180°C and deep fry the celery until slightly brown. Then boil the oil again to 190°C and deep fry the aubergines until really brown (but not burnt). Drain the fried vegetables well on paper towel to remove excess oil.
  5. Dissolve the honey in the vinegar – ii) and soak in the raisins for 10 minutes. Set aside. Clean the frying pan, sauté the onion with another 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat until tender.  Add the red pepper and fry for a few minutes, then olives and capers for a minute.
  6. Spoon in the passata with the dried oregano – i) and cocoa powder. Then pour in the vinegar mixture – ii) including raisins, and mix well for a minutes or until pungent aroma subsides.
  7. Add the deep fried vegetables and the fish, and stir gently to combine. Season with ground pepper, taste it and add salt if necessary. Cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
  8. Lightly toast and chop the almonds, and scatter over or mix in the caponata. Garnish with the basil and serve.

If swordfish is unavailable, try fresh tuna, another popular fish in Sicily. Mackerel is one of the options, too. Next time I will cook with polpo, or octpus!!

 

Memoirs of a Foodie 

I always bring lots of foodstuff back from Sicily: sun dried tomatoes, dried oregano, pistachio (nuts, powder, cream, pesto), anchovy… and salted caper is one of them.

In 2014, I sailed to a smaller island, Lipari in the Aeolian Islands off the northeastern coast of Sicily. When I was enjoying the breathtaking scenery at Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani, a local farmer talked to me and showed me around the field behind the church explaining the crops and plants (I don’t speak Italian but I could understand what he said as I had studied Spanish). He seemed very happy with the arrival of spring and as if he wanted to share the joy with someone. Baby leaves of fig and olive…. It was the first time for me to see caper plants, so I was a bit excited. I think that was why he fetched a jar of homemade capers in sea salt for me! What a surprise and what an encounter!! This is one of the reasons I love travelling on my own.

My rental bike and Salina

And also he plucked a flower and gave me. At home, fully enjoyed caponata, pasta, salad etc. with the capers.

the capers and the flower

 

MUST SEE in LIPARI

Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani

It was early April and still off season – there were some tourists but very quiet. No one up there, and I had the spectacular view and tranquility all to myself!! (but the farmer disturbed! 😀 )

Chiesa Vecchia
Salina, where il Postino/the Postman (1994) was shot

 

MUST EAT in LIPARI

Popped in Gilberto e Vera twice while in Lipari for just wine (aperitivo) and for a panino. Friendly Girberto chose red wine for me – Salina Rosso from Salina Island. (Tripadvisor reviews)

Oscar is a not to be missed pasticceria/gelateria in Lipari. Their cannolo is just divine and the best one I have ever had. Ricotta cream was stuffed in a homemade shell in front of me!! They offered me some almond biscuits, which were superb and I couldn’t resist buying two packets!

pic from TripAdvisor

 

How to get to Lipari

Milazzo Port – Lipari: about 1 hour by hydrofoil or about 2 hours by ferry (Check with ok ferry)
Access to Milazzo Port: Read tips on TripAdvisor Travel Forum

 

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17 thoughts on “Caponata/Fish Caponata and Lipari, Sicily

    1. Thank you Kay! It was a bit fishy at first, but lemon juice worked well! I like the cocoa version! but do not add too much. Somewhere between 1/2 – 1 tsp, maybe a little bit less than 1 tsp is better!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Such an interesting variation. I love the idea of adding swordfish. Looks delicious. 🙂

    I’m quite sure the addition is a new one, and probably inspired by chili con carne, which usually has a bit of cocoa or Mexican chocolate added to it.

    Liked by 1 person

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