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Staples in my fridge – olives, capers, anchovies and nuts

In my fridge you are likely to always find green and black olives, anchovies, capers and nuts, especially almonds, pine nuts, pistachio, hazelnuts and walnuts.  I consider these as staples and frequently add these ingredients, common in Italian cooking, to much of my cuisine.

In my freezer you will always find jars of stock and pulses of some kind, usually chickpeas, borlotti, cannellini or even black-eyed beans. I say “even” because they are not considered a common bean in Italian cuisine.  I do not bother storing frozen lentils  because they cook so quickly and don’t need  soaking.

I have not mentioned how important fresh herbs, spices and extra virgin olive oil are in my cooking – but they are.

What  you will also find  in my fridge are some jars of homemade  pastes  – always harissa and maybe a couple of jars of other pastes  that contain a combination of three or more of these ingredients: olives, anchovies, various fresh herbs, capers or nuts.

For most of this year, my partner has been doing the shopping. Perhaps he enjoys having this time on his own and to chat with his favourite stallholders at the Queen Victoria Market.

Someone once asked me if I trusted him with the shopping.  I do, but sometimes he buys too much….  last week it was too much squid, this week he came home with two large freshwater trouts.

There is no inviting friends around! We are in lockdown in Melbourne.

We eat a lot of vegetables and I can easily turn excess vegetables into soup or pickles. Meat I can freeze, but I do not  like to freeze fish, so we had trout for two nights in a row.

The first night I simply fried  the trout in butter and a substantial amount of  fresh sage. Good, but ordinary.

In my fridge I had a jar of a combination of ground toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, nutmeg, black pepper and Za’atar.

You could say it was a version of dukkah that I had used for something else and I sprinkled some of this on the trout once  the trout was filleted at the table.

The second night I cooked the trout on a bed of  sautéed shaved fennel and parsley and  at the very end of cooking I added some green olive paste. I had this in the fridge. The sauce was plentiful and went beautifully with the braised lentils and endives.

And once again I was able to add a different taste to something that was pretty good in the first place but was made even better.

I do not measure ingredients when I am making a paste, but for the sake of the recipe, I have made an estimation of  the ingredients.

My combinations of ingredients vary, but for this particular green olive paste I used:

200g of pitted green olives,
100g capers, either drained if in brine or soaked and rinsed a number of times if using the salted capers,
100g of toasted almonds,
4 anchovies,
1 garlic clove,
grated orange peel from one orange,
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of chopped parsley
juice from half a lemon.

Making pastes is dead simple. Blend all of the ingredients together except for the olive oil that you can add at the very end….slowly… until you have a paste to your liking. You can make it as smooth as you wish; I prefer some crunch.

Place in a clean glass jar, top with some more extra virgin olive oil and keep it in your fridge.

This is the first time that I have taken a photo of inside my fridge, but you can see what I mean!

A WET PASTA DISH WITH KOHLRABI

Kohlrabi, can be green or purple. it is a root vegetable with dark green leaves that shoot out from the top. All parts of the kohlrabi can be eaten, both raw and cooked.

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In Ragusa where my father’s family is from, they make a wet pasta dish. In the days when fresh pasta was made at home and when my elderly aunt was still alive they use to make a short pasta shape called causineddi. The younger members of the family sometimes make this pasta  on special occasions.

I bought two kohlrabi recently and ate the green leaves braised and mixed with kale . I later regretted this because when I decided to make the wet pasta dish I had to substitute kale for the green component.

The “real” recipe is in a much earlier post: KOHLRABI with pasta (Causunnedda )

I used chifferi rigati (shape) as the pasta.

Under the circumstances may be forgiven for substituting kale or cavolo nero for the green kohlrabi leaves , however I also used a strong chicken stock instead of the pork rind  for flavouring ….I cannot therefore call this a Sicilian traditional recipe.

The drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil  as the finishing touch makes this dish very fragrant and tasty.

Sicilian Cunnighiu (rabbit) as cooked in Ragusa, ‘a Portuisa’ 

One of my Sicilian aunt’s favourite ways to cook rabbit in Ragusa was Cunnighiu a Pattuisa (cunnighiu is coniglio in Italian, rabbit in English)I did some research and found that two other Sicilian food writers call it something different: Giuseppe Coria calls it Cunnighiu a Portisa, and Pino Correnti Cunnighiu a Portuisa. In Italian this becomes, alla Portoghese, that is in the Portuguese style.

I am not quite sure why the Portuguese are accredited for this recipe, but one can assume that it is because of the Spaniards in Sicily.

Sicily was ruled by Spaniards at various times by: House of Aragon (1282–1516), Kingdom of Spain (1516–1713), Duchy of Savoy (1713–1720), Habsburg Monarchy (1720–1735) and Kingdom of Naples (1735–1806).

Located on the southwestern tip of the European continent in the Iberian Peninsula are Spain, Andorra and Portugal and Portugal only gained independence from Spain in 1640. Olive oil, olives and capers are used extensively in Sicilian and Spanish cooking.

There are various versions of this recipe for rabbit cooked in the Portuguese style as cooked in Ragusa and most seem to contain green olives and capers. Some contain vinegar, others white wine. Some recipes suggest adding a spoonful of tomato paste (mainly to enrich the colour), some add a little sugar, others chilli.

I cooked a version of this rabbit for friends in Adelaide, the photos tell the story.

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In a fry pan I browned 1 rabbit in about ½ cup extra virgin oil. I sectioned the rabbit into 5 pieces (number of pieces is optional).

I then added some salt and pepper, some green olives and capers, 2-4 cloves garlic and some fresh thyme. Sicilians would use a few fresh bay leaves. If you are using salted capers make sure to rinse them and soak them in several changes of fresh water. 

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I then added about 1 glass of white wine mixed with ½ cup of white wine vinegar.  I covered it with a lid and cooked it slowly on low heat. 

*If it is a tender rabbit and if it is cut into small enough pieces, the rabbit may be cooked by the time all of the liquid has evaporated. If the rabbit is not as young or as tender as you had hoped, and you feel that it needs to be cooked for longer add a little water, cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is soft – keep on adding more wine and water.

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I partly cooked some potatoes and placed them with the rabbit for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking. The green leaves are mint. These add colour and taste: Ragusani use quite a bit of mint in their cooking. 

One way to cook Rabbit like a Sicilian

POLLO OR GALLINA ALLA CONTADINA, ALLA PAESANA. Braised Chicken or rabbit with Olives, Sicilian style

RABBIT with cloves, cinnamon and red wine (CONIGLIO DA LICODIA EUBEA)

CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)

POLLO AL GUAZZETTO (Sardinian Chicken or rabbit braised with Saffron)

 

CAPONATA FROM PALERMO (made with eggplants)

No exact quantities,  just like an Italian.  You can tell from the photos how easy it is to make Caponata Palermitana. Unlike Caponata Catanese there are no peppers (capsicums) in this caponata but the rest of the ingredients and processes for making  any caponata are the same.

I used 2 egglants. Cooked each separately as I did not want the frying to be overcrowded. I use salt when I am cooking and not after the dish is cooked. I always use extra virgin olive oil.

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A good heavy saucepan is good to use.

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After the eggplants, sauté the onions and the celery. I used 1 large onion, 2 sticks of celery and some of the tender leavesof the celery. Add some salt.

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When the onions and celery have softened to your liking, add green olives and capers.

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I made a space in the centre of the saucepan, added a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Melted that and added about a quarter of a cup of red vinegar and evaporated it.

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I made another space in the centre and added about 1/3 cup of passata.

CFB15A9B-AE28-48E3-A9E7-E05752A95BF3Cooked it – you can see that there is very little liquid left.

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Time to add the eggplants and combine all the ingredients.

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This time I will decorate the caponata with fried breadcrumbs (day old bread mollica) toasted in a frypan with a little olive oil.

I could decorate the caponata with toasted pine nuts or almonds but I think the bread will add crunch but not too much taste so as not to compete with the eggplants. At this time of year, egglants are of excellent quality.

Mint rather than basil appealed to me more on this occasion.

There are numerous recipes for caponate (I can spell, it is the plural of caponata). Use the search button.

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