Tag Archives: Green Olives

CAPONATA DI NATALE (Christmas, winter caponata made with celery, almonds and sultanas)

Not all caponate include eggplants.

This  Sicilian caponata is certainly different to the Christmas fare we are used to in Australia, but it makes a perfect antipasto or salad as an accompaniment to meat or fish .

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Eggplants and peppers are summer vegetables and not in season in winter for Christmas, so this caponata is made with celery hearts, traditionally boiled first before being sautéed. In some parts of Sicily green, leafy winter vegetables (for example chicory, spinach, endives) are also used with the celery.

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I do not pre-cook the celery; I prefer to slice it very finely and just sauté it till it is slightly softened.

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It is a very unusual caponata with a combination of textures and flavourssweet, salty, sour… soft and crunchy. This recipe is one of the many caponate in my first book Sicilian Seafood Cooking.

Sultanas or currants are both good to use. Muscatels and raisins are OK as well, but their size may not be as visually pleasing.

Sometimes I toast the almonds, sometimes I do not. I made this caponata in a friend’s kitchen and on this occasion I used whole almonds rather than chopped ( the was no food processor/ kitchen wizz). On other occasions I have used pine nuts.

I have paired this with meat and fish but I really like to eat it on by it self… especially at the start of a meal.

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INGREDIENTS

almonds, 1 cup, blanched, toasted and chopped
celery, 1 large, but remove the outer leaves and only use the centre, pale green stalks and some of the fine leaves
onion 1, large, chopped
sultanas or currants, ¾ cup, sun-ripened
capers, ½ cup, salted or in brine
green olives, ¾ cup , stoned, chopped
white vinegar, ½ glass
sugar, 3 tablespoons
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
salt and freshly ground pepper

Optional
These can be sprinkled on top when the caponata is ready to serve:
Coarse Toasted Breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons, made from good quality 1-2 day old bread and then toasted in a frypan with hot oil.

PROCESSES

Slice the celery finely and chop the leaves.
Sauté the celery with the onion in a deep frypan until it has softened, add salt and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the olives, sultanas and capers and cook for another 2 minutes.
Empty the cooked ingredients into a bowl.
Agro dolce sauce (sweet and sour sauce): To the frypan already coated with caramelised flavours, add the sugar and heat it very gently until it begins to melt and bubble. Add the vinegar and allow it to evaporate.
Add the vegetables to the sauce and some of the almonds, reserving some for decoration if you are not going to use the toasted breadcrumbs.

Leave the caponata in the fridge, at least overnight. Serve at Room temperature. Top with the rest of the almonds or breadcrumbs when ready to serve.

SICILIAN CAPONATA DI MELANZANE as made in Palermo (Eggplant caponata and Eggplant caponata with chocolate)

Caponata has evolved over the ages to become the dish, which personifies Sicilian cuisine and is a popular dish during festivities ( perfect for Christmas). As you’d expect, there are many regional variations and enrichments of what must have been a very humble dish, as well as the personal, innovative touches from the chefs of ancient, Sicilian aristocracy (called monzu, a corruption of the French word monseur).

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Photograph by Graeme Gillies and food styling by Fiona Rigg. Cooking and recipe by Marisa Raniolo Wilkins (from Sicilian Seafood Cooking)

In Sicilian cooking the melanzana (eggplant) is said to be the queen of vegetables, second only to the tomato and the principal ingredient in caponata is the eggplant.

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If you eat caponata at my house you are likely to eat the version of caponata as made in Catania and it will include peppers as well as eggplant. This is because my mother was born in Catania and this is the caponata I grew up eating. The caponata which is common around Palermo has no peppers.

I prefer to keep my caponata di melanzane simple, but again, variations in the amounts of ingredients are endless. Some versions add garlic, some have oregano, several recipes include anchovies, others add sultanas and/or pine nuts or toasted almonds. These are all acceptable and authentic variations.

In keeping with the tradition of what is customary in Palermo, just before serving add a sprinkling of coarse breadcrumbs (toasted in a fry pan in a little hot extra virgin olive oil) or almonds — blanched, toasted and chopped.

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For me, Peter Robb in his book Midnight in Sicily captures the essence of a Sicilian caponata, when he describes how very different the caponata he was savouring in Palermo was to the caponata he had been eating in Naples.

I realised caponata in Palermo was something very different. It was the colour that struck me first. The colour of darkness. A heap of cubes of that unmistakably luminescent dark, dark purply-reddish goldy richness, glimmerings from a baroque canvas, that comes from eggplant, black olives, tomato and olive oil densely cooked together, long and gently. The colour of southern Italian cooking. Caponata was one of the world’s great sweet and sour dishes, sweet, sour and savoury.

The eggplant was the heart of caponata. The celery hearts were the most striking component: essential and surprising. Pieces of each were fried separately in olive oil until they were a fine golden colour and then added to a sauce made by cooking tomato, sugar and vinegar with a golden chopped onion in oil and adding Sicilian olives, capers …….

As Robb discovered: eggplant is the purple heart of Sicilian caponata – and it is the principal ingredient.

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There are a variety of caponate (plural of caponata) and the variations and inclusions of different ingredients in the basic caponata recipe are many.

Some traditional recipes use tomato paste rather than chopped tomatoes, some add garlic, others include chocolate (or cocoa). Many recipes contain nuts – almonds or pine nuts or pistachio, fresh in some, in others they are toasted. In a few recipes the caponata is sprinkled with breadcrumbs and sometimes the breadcrumbs have been browned in oil beforehand. Frequently herbs are added – sometimes basil, at other times oregano or mint. Certain recipes also include raisins or currants and some fresh pears. Several include fish, singly or in combination and include canned tuna, prawns, octopus, salted anchovies and bottarga (tuna roe).

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You will need a deep, large fry pan. If you use a non-stick frypan you may not need as much oil, but the surface will not be as conducive to allowing the residue juices to form and caramelise as in a regular pan. (After food has been sautéed, the juices caramelise – in culinary terms this is known as fond. Non-stick pans do not produce as much fond).

Although the vegetables are fried separately, they are all incorporated in the same pan at the end. When making large quantities I sometimes use a wok.

extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup (depending how much the vegetables will absorb)
eggplants, 3-4 large, dark skinned variety
onion 1, large, chopped
red tomatoes, 2 medium size, peeled and chopped or 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and a little water or some canned tomatoes
capers, ½ cup, salted or in brine
green olives, ¾ cup, stoned, chopped
celery, 2-3 tender stalks and the pale green leaves (both from the centre of the celery)
white, wine vinegar, ½ cup
sugar, 2 tablespoons
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the eggplant into cubes (approx 30mm) – do not peel. Place the cubes into abundant water with about 1 tablespoon of salt. Leave for about 30 minutes – this will keep the flesh white and remove any bitter juices while you prepare the other ingredients. Although it is not always necessary to do this, the eggplant is said to absorb less oil if soaked previously.
Prepare the capers – if they are the salted variety, ensure that they have been rinsed thoroughly and then soaked for about 30 minutes before use, and then rinsed again.
Chop the onion.
Slice the celery into very fine slices and chop the green leaves.
Peel, and coarsely chop the tomatoes (or use tomato paste or canned tomatoes).
Drain the eggplants and squeeze them to remove as much water as possible – I use a clean tea towel.
Heat a large frypan over medium heat with ½ cup of the extra virgin olive oil.
Add eggplant cubes and sauté until soft and golden (about 10-12 minutes). Place the drained eggplants into a large bowl and set aside (all of the vegetables will be added to this same bowl).
Drain the oil from the eggplants back into the same frypan and re-use this oil to fry the next ingredients.
Add the celery and a little salt gently for 5-7 minutes, so that it retains some of its crispness (in more traditional recipes, the celery is always boiled until soft before being sautéed).
Remove the celery from the pan and add it to the eggplants.
Sauté the onion having added a little more oil to the frypan. Add a little salt and cook until translucent.
Add the tomatoes or the tomato paste (with a little water) to the onions, and allow their juice to evaporate.
Add the capers and olives. Allow these ingredients to cook gently for 1- 2 minutes.
Empty the contents of the frypan into the other cooked vegetables.

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For the agro dolce sauce (sweet and sour sauce):

Add the sugar to the frypan (already coated with the caramelised flavours from the vegetables). Heat it very gently until it begins to melt and bubble. Add the vinegar and allow it to evaporate.
Incorporate the cooked vegetables into the frypan with the agro dolce sauce.
Add ground pepper, check for salt and add more if necessary.
Gently toss in all of the cooked ingredients over low heat for 2-3 minutes to blend the flavours.
Remove the caponata from the pan and cool before placing it into one or more containers. Store in the fridge till ready to use and remove it from the fridge about an hour before eating– it will keep well in the fridge for up to one week.

When ready to eat, sprinkle with either toasted almonds or toasted breadcrumbs. I like to add fresh basil or mint leaves.

CAPONATA DI MELANZANE CON CIOCCOLATA (Caponata with chocolate)

In Sicilian cuisine there are a number of recipes, which include chocolate to enrich the flavour of a dish (see HARE or RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE) and chocolate in eggplant caponata is a common variation in certain parts of Sicily.

In the early 1500s, the Spanish conquistadors discovered a variety of unknown foods in the New World.Among these was xocolatl, (chocolate) obtained from ground cacao seeds. Spanish nobility arrived in Sicily during the 15th and 16th centuries and they brought their exotic ingredients from the New World to the island. This was also an ostentatious period of splendour and opulence for the clergy and the Sicilian aristocracy.

Although many traditional Sicilian dishes are said to be Spanish legacies, it is more accurate to say that some Sicilian cuisine incorporated both Sicilian and Spanish traditions.

Follow the recipe for eggplant caponata above and add cocoa or good quality, dark chocolate.

Cocoa: The majority of the recipes for caponata enriched with chocolate suggest the use of cocoa powder (about 2 tablespoons of cocoa to 2 tablespoons of sugar dissolved in a little water to form a thick paste). Add this mixture to the pan after you have made the agro dolce sauce and before you add the cooked vegetables.

Dark Chocolate: My most favoured alternative is to use 50g of dark, extra fine chocolate (organic, high cocoa content – 70%). Add the chocolate pieces into the agro dolce sauce and stir it gently as it melts, and then I add the cooked vegetables. This results into a much smoother and more luscious caponata.

In a modern Sicilian restaurant with a young chef, I was presented with an eggplant caponata where the chocolate was grated on top, much like grated cheese on pasta.

In my first book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking there is whole chapter devoted to caponata. I have also written other posts with recipes on the blog :

A MOUNTAIN OF CAPONATA – two days before Christmas 

CAPONATA SICILIANA (CATANESE – Caponata as made in Catania) 

FENNEL CAPONATA (Sicilian sweet and sour method for preparing certain vegetables)

CAPONATA (General information and recipe for Caponata di patate – potatoes)

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Caponata Catanese

TROTA CON OLIVE VERDI, LIMONE E ACCIUGHE – Pan fried trout with green olives, lemon slices and anchovies

Anchovies are often added to fish in Sicilian cuisine – they are either stuffed in the slashes made on the sides of the fish or gently melted with a little oil and added to the fish whilst it is cooking. Trout has flaky, delicate flesh and slashing it is not a good idea so I chose to do the latter.

I always use herbs for all my cooking and this time I selected sage that is often associated with veal and pork but I quite like it with trout. Sage is not a common herb in Sicilian cooking and you may prefer to use rosemary instead.

  • whole fish, one large trout (for 2-3 people)
  • lemons, 1-2 whole – ends trimmed, sliced into thick circles
  • extra virgin olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • anchovies, 3-6 cut finely
  • green olives, a couple of tablespoons, well drained
  • sage or rosemary

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  • Prepare the fish – clean, dry and stuff a few herbs in the cavity.
  • Add a little oil (about one tablespoon depending on your pan) to the frying pan and over medium heat. Add the lemon slices and pan fry them until lightly browned – turn once. In order to brown the lemon slices they should not be overcrowded so you may need to pan fry them in two batches.
  • Remove the lemon slices from the pan with the oil and any of the juices.

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  • Add a little more oil to the fry pan, heat it and add the anchovies. Stir them around in the pan over medium-low heat until they dissolve.
  • Add the trout. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (remember that the anchovies are salty) and add the sage. Pan fry the fish on both sides and only turn once.
  • Add the olives half way the cooking.
  • Toss the slices of lemon and the juices back in the pan and heat through.

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When I was in Paris a couple of months ago I saw this  hand painted Fridge in a store window. This fridge is part of  Sicily is my Love, a colourful collaboration by Smeg fridges and Dolce&Gabbana’s signature decorative style. Each of the 100 fridges illustrate Sicilian folklore in bold, vibrant colour and are hand-painted by Sicilian artists.  They were released during the Milan Design Fair, Salone del Mobile di Milano in 2016.

 

The last of my pickled olives

This year’s  olives…… hardly worth it.  Larger than last year’s crop, but probably just as few.

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I think that my tree is refusing to produce many olives because it is objecting to being in a pot. It gets root bound and every year we pull it out of the pot and trim the roots – this probably traumatizes it.

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It has given me many years of pleasure and I have certainly experimented with processes for curing the olives and dressing them.

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Once pickled, my olives do not keep their colour – I pick them when they are a green- violet colour but the pickling process turns them into a uniform light brown colour.

I was horrified when I read this article in The Age (Melbourne news paper):

Olives painted with copper sulphate top largest-ever Interpol-Europol list of fake food

A statement by Interpol on Wednesday said a record 10,000 tonnes and 1 million litres of hazardous fake food and drink had been recovered across 57 countries, with Australia also making the list.

Italian olives painted with copper sulphate solution, Sudanese sugar tainted with fertiliser, and hundreds of thousands of litres of bogus alcoholic drinks top Interpol’s annual tally of toxic and counterfeit food seized by police agencies across the world. The haul of bogus diet supplements, adulterated honey and ……….etc.

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I have often been asked about the colour of Sicilian Olives (those bright green ones as in photo above) and I really do not know how they are pickled and how the bright green  colour eventuates.

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My tree has given me a great deal of pleasure and I have certainly experimented with processes for curing its olives and dressing them.

There are many posts written about pickling olives and recipes using olives on my blog…. key in OLIVES in the search button. I have just tried this and there are 72 posts about olives! Here is one of them:

Various Ways to Pickle Olives

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The olive trees in Agrigento are among the oldest in Sicily. This photo was taken in the Valley of the Temples.
Oh, to be in Agrigento now!

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

IMG_2667Any time you see Italian dishes described as alla contadina, alla paesana, alla campagnola………do we really know what is meant by these terms?

These all translate as of the peasantry – peasant style –  and as those who live on the land would cook these dishes. They imply to be dishes that are healthy, nourishing, unsophisticated, hearty, country-style and as cooked at home. In these dishes you would also expect some common vegetables – onions, carrots, celery, some common herbs and wine (someone living on the land usually makes their own wine).

Carne – meat, or coniglio – rabbit, or pollo or gallina, seem to be cooked alla contadina, alla paesana, alla campagnola very frequently in home kitchens. The method of cooking is braised or stewed.

What is meant by pollo and gallina, and is there a difference?

Pollame are farmyard birds, therefore pollo is derived from this word.

Gallina is chicken and female. Gallo is the masculine, i.e. a rooster and would probably be not as tender as a gallina and would require more cooking.

Once a pollo would most likely have been considered a male, but in modern times there is no difference between the terminology or the gender and especially in Australia, UK and US,  it is what we commonly refer to as chicken.  Usually chicken is 6-12 months old when it is killed.

A gallina vecchia would be the description of a chicken used to make broth/ stock and would be older than 12 months.

Proverb: Una gallina vecchia fa buon brodo…. An old hen makes good broth

Cappone is a capon and is a castrated male – this is likely to be sold as a larger bird as it will be fattened intentionally; the implication is that it will be tasty. I doubt if I could purchase a capon in Australia.

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Recipes for pollo or gallina (chicken) alla contadina etc. cooked with these simple ingredients and braised are found in every region of Italy; the only variations may be the addition of a few tomatoes or mushrooms or a pepper (capsicum) or two. The wine can be red or white.

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In Sicilian recipes you may find the addition of olives. More common would be the green, olive schacciate (cracked olives) as they have no stone. (The photo below was taken in Palermo. I have so many photos of Sicily and do not necessarily add them in my posts – silly me.)

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I always buy whole chicken for a braise. My mother and relatives always did and I guess I just do without question.

Although I always buy free range, there is always some fat and I remove as much as possible before I cook it. I also always skim fat from the top of the braise once it is cooked.

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As you can see by the way I dissect the chicken into pieces, I am no butcher, but if it is peasant style after all so I get away with it being roughly cut. I usually cut rough the vegetables as well. And who needs exact measurements if the recipe is home style.

1 chicken
2 carrots
2-3 celery stalks
1 large onion
2-3 red tomatoes (peeled fresh or canned)
½ -1 glass of white or red wine
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
rosemary, parsley or sage
1 cup green olives (no stones)

Cut the chicken into pieces and remove the fat (unless you like fatty chicken).
Brown the chicken in a tiny amount of oil – one side and the other. Remove from the pan. I like to drain off any fat before I continue cooking the rest.

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Use the same pan, add the olive oil. Sauté the onion.
Add celery and carrots and sauté some more.
Add the chicken, herbs, tomatoes, seasoning and pour in the wine. Do not use much salt as the olives are likely to be salty.

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Add some water to almost cover the chicken, cover and braise the contents (on low heat) for 40-60 minutes, stirring now and again. Add the olives about 10 minutes prior to the finish.
If there is too much liquid and you wish to concentrate the flavours, remove the chicken, increase the heat and evaporate the liquid lid until it has thickened.  At this stage I skim more fat from the top if it is necessary. Add the chicken, mix, cover and leave until ready to serve.

Remember, Italian food is not usually presented at the table piping hot; the flavours are left to mature for at least 30 minutes.Italians like to savour their food and not have scalded palates!

SALSA VERDE – ITALIAN GREEN SAUCE

To Good Friends!

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Just recently one of my Adelaide friends made a salsa verde to accompany some lightly roasted sirloin and roasted vegetables. Most enjoyable.

Making salsa verde was one of my tasks as a teenager in the family kitchen.

There always seemed to be some salsa verde in our fridge; it was used specifically as a condiment for our frequent serves of pesce lesso, (poached or steamed fish) and bollito (boiled meat). Broth (and hence boiled meat) was a weekly affair. Traditionally it was intended to accompany plain tasting, boiled food.

I was very surprised that I have not included a recipe for salsa verde on my blog as I make it often.

I have never measured or weighed ingredients when making sauces, but these estimations seem to produce what I am after. Allow this salsa to rest for at least an hour so that the flavours become better balanced.

Traditionally the consistency of the sauce is semi liquid, especially if you wish to pour it  over fish or meat. However, by adding larger amounts of solid ingredients, this sauce can be presented as a large blob on the side of the meat or fish.

To serve the salsa verde with fish, I sometimes use lemon juice instead of vinegar. In latter years I also started to add grated lemon peel.

Recipes evolve and over time, especially in other parts of the world where salsa verde has been become popular and different herbs have been added. For example I have noticed that mint or tarragon or oregano or rocket have snuck in. These herbs are not common in the traditional Italian recipe that originated in the north of Italy but has spread all over Italy. In Sicilian it is called sarsa virdi .

Salsa verde can be used to jazz anything up – vegetables, roasts, cold meats, smoked fish, crayfish etc. I sometimes use it to stuff hard boiled eggs (remove the yolk, mix with salsa verde and return it to the egg).

I had someone ask me recently about using it with left over Christmas turkey. Why not?

 

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INGREDIENTS

  • parsley, 1 cup cut finely,
  • wine vinegar, 1 ½ tablespoonful
  • anchovies, 3-4 cut finely
  • capers, ½ cup, if the salted variety, rinse, soak to remove salt
  • extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
  • fresh bread, the white part of 1 slice
  • egg, 1, hard boiled, chopped finely
  • garlic, 2 cloves chopped
  • green olives, chopped, ½ cup

 

  • Soak the bread briefly in 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and squeeze dry.
  • Combine all of the ingredients and stir them gently together in a wide mouthed jar or jug.
  • The anchovies generally provide sufficient salt, but taste the sauce and season to taste.

Variations

When I lived in my parent’s house a little of the mixed garden pickles (called sotto aceti or giardiniera) was a must. Select a couple of small pieces of the white root (turnip) or green (small gherkins). Omit the ½ tablespoon of vinegar.

This is the type of sauce where you can vary the ingredients. Add different amounts of ingredients – more or less anchovies or capers.

 

 

A MOUNTAIN OF CAPONATA – two days before Christmas

Mountains of eggplants, peppers, celery, onion, capers and green olives…..a few red tomatoes, pine nuts, basil and the characteristic caramelized sugar and vinegar to deglaze the pan that makes the agro – dolce sauce for caponata.

Two days before Christmas and the caponata needs to be made so that the flavours mellow.

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In a couple of days it will be perfect!

Ready for more fresh basil and pine-nuts and ready to be presented to guests. The first lot will be on Christmas eve – it will be served as the antipasto without any other food, just a little, good quality, fresh bread for those who wish to mop up the juices.

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For recipes see:

Caponata (General Information and Recipe for Caponata di Patate – potatoes)

Caponata Siciliana (Catanese – Caponata As Made in Catania). This one contains peppers (capsicums).

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Fennel Caponata (Sicilian Sweet and Sour Method for Preparing Certain Vegetables).

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This caponata is made with celery

TONNO AL AGRO DOLCE – Sweet and sour tuna, Sicilian – ALBACORE TUNA

In Australia we have different types of tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Southern Bluefin and Yellowfin tunas. Bonito and mackerel as well as tuna are part of the same family (Scombridae).

Albacore tuna is sustainable, cheap in price and much under-rated in Australia. It is not sashimi grade so the Asian export market does not want it and I think that this is the reason why in Australia we tend to undervalue it. It is denser in texture but excellent for braising (lightly or cooked for longer).  Generally it is sold as a wheel but I have also been able to buy it as a fillet – perfect for  baking and braising  in one piece.

When I see Albacore tuna I grab it. It is caught in winter on the coast of Southern New South Wales but unfortunately not many fish vendors stock it.

Michael displays albacore right #1

This is Mike holding one of the Albacore tuna at his stall in the Queen Victoria Market. He looks very noble in this photo.

In this recipe the tuna is lightly braised and has slivers of garlic and mint studded throughout the pieces of fish. The rest of the ingredients and cooking style are Sicilian through and through.

I prefer to use a large round piece of Albacore tuna for this dish, which can be separated into 4 portions.

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The following recipe is for 4 people

INGREDIENTS and PROCESS

fish, 4 pieces
onion, 1 chopped thinly
garlic, 2 cloves, cut into halves (or thinner)
fresh mint, 4+ leaves (or sage leaves in winter because mint is not doing well)
4 anchovies
green olives, 8 -10
extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup
salt and chilli flakes to taste
red wine vinegar, 1 splash – about 1 tablespoon
sugar, ¾ tsp
orange, 4 slices , these are optional and a modern take on this recipe. If you are going to add them sauté them before you add the sugar and vinegar
 
Cut the 4 portions of tuna from the round piece. Discard the skin around the outside.
Use a thin, sharp knife with a long blade and make 2-3 deep, regularly spaced slits into each hunk of fish (I made 3-4 slits in the biggest pieces of fish).
Insert into each split half a clove of garlic and in another a mint leaf.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate the fish in one layer.
Sauté the fish, turn once (until it colours), remove and set aside.
Sauté the onion in the same pan until it becomes golden and soft.
Add the anchovies and stir them around over moderate heat – they will dissolve.
Add olives and the seasoning. Add the orange slices (optional). Add the sugar, watch it melt (still over medium heat) then add the vinegar and evaporate it.
Return the tuna to the pan it and cook gently until it is cooked to your liking – this will depend on the size of your fish and how you prefer to eat it. For my tastes I return the tuna to the sauce mainly to reheat it as I do enjoy my tuna fairly underdone (this is in comparison to how Italians generally eat tuna).

I have also cooked the slice of tuna whole.

 

TROTA CON SALSA SARACINA (PAN FRIED TROUT with Saracen, green olive sauce)

Once upon a time in Australia, Tartare sauce was about the only sauce that was served with fish and usually this was battered. Generally the ingredients for Tartare sauce included gherkins, chives, parsley and mayonnaise. If you were lucky, there may have been capers and or tarragon.

These days Tartare sauce continues to be very common in Australia, however increasingly so Australian cuisine reflects the cultural influences of the diverse cultures that have settled in Australia. For example, it is now not unusual to have one of the following sauces as an accompaniment, a charmoula (Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian) or a Nuoc Cham Gung (Vietnamese) or a salsa verde (Italian).

The less fiddling with this trout the better so I pan fried it and simply presented it with a dollop of a Sicilian sauce called Salsa Saracina; this sauce is particularly suitable for plainly cooked fish.

Salsa Saracina (Saracen sauce) is a cooked sauce made with that particular set of ingredients which are so common to Sicilian cooking – olives, sugar, pine nuts, saffron and sun dried sultanas. Apart from the olives, the other ingredients are attributed to the Arabs who settled in Sicily and at one time in history they were referred to as Saracens.

This sauce keeps very well for a few weeks when stored in the fridge. Place the sauce into a clean jar and press the contents down to eliminate air bubbles. Top it with a little extra virgin olive oil to seal it and always repeat the process if you remove some from the jar. This sauce is always served cold.

I hardly ever cook without using herbs and on this occasion I used the tops of a bulb of fennel and some spring onions. Other favourite herbs when pan-frying fish are fresh bay leaves, rosemary or thyme.

If the trout is a large one and you feel that it may need more cooking, once you have added the wine cover the fish with a lid and cook it until it is cooked to your liking. Once the fish is cooked, remove the lid and if there is too much liquid, evaporate it.

INGREDIENTS
trout, as many as you need
herbs, fresh
white wine, ¼ cup per fish
extra virgin olive oil,to fry the fish
spring onions, left whole with a part of the tops removed

See: SALSA SARACINA (Saracen sauce)

Make the sauce before hand.

PROCESSES
For the fish:
Dry the trout, sprinkle with a little salt and pan-fry the fish in a little extra virgin olive oil and the herbs.
Turn once and about a minute before it is cooked to your liking add the wine and evaporate. This will result in a small amount of sauce, which you can dribble on the plate before placing the fish on it.
Present the fish with a dollop of Salsa Saracina on the side.

This one fish was sufficient for 2 people – it is easily filleted at the table.

MA2SBAE8REVW

CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)

Corrado lives in Ragusa and he tells me that it is the Feast of San Giorgio (the patron saint of Ragusa).  There are always large festivities for this yearly event celebrated in Ragusa Ibla on the last Sunday in May and Corrado and Barbara (his wife) are going there to take part of the celebrations.

Oggi qui a ibla c’è la festa di San Giorgio, e questa sera scenderò a ibla con la mia vespa e con Barbara. La serata è calda è quasi estate…….”

There is no need for me to describe this event because I found a fabulous little film on YouTube (check link). Watching it, reminded me that I had some old photos that were given to me by my brother. One shows the main square of Ibla in celebration mode, and the other is of the statue of San Giorgio; it is kept in the church, but paraded every year in the small streets of Ibla.

‘……non ti saprei dire cosa si mangia in queste occasioni,’ 

Naturally I am always interested in the food, but Corrado disappointed me by telling me that he is not able to tell me what is eaten on these occasions. And this too reminds me that for a long time I have wanted to write about coniglio a partuisa, a very common way to cook rabbit in this south-eastern part of Sicily. Coniglio alla stemperata is also a local recipe and I will write about this at another time.

The foto of the cooked rabbit was taken In Zia Niluzza’s kitchen the last time I was in Sicily. Unfortunately the foto does not do it justice; the taste of the rabbit is exceptionally good. As you can see it is cooked in a heavy frypan to allow the juices to evaporate and caramelize.

If it is a wild rabbit, to remove the wild taste it is usually soaked in water and vinegar for at least an hour before it is cooked. This will also bleach the flesh.

To make it more visually appealing, I add fresh mint at the time I present it to the table.

INGREDIENTS:

1 rabbit cut into smallish pieces, ½ cup green olives, ½ cup capers, 4 cloves garlic, a few sprigs of mint leaves, 3 bay leaves, 1 glass of red wine mixed with ½ cup of red wine vinegar, ½ cup extra virgin oil, salt and pepper to taste. Extra mint leaves for decoration.

PROCESSES:In a large frying pan sauté the rabbit in the hot extra virgin olive oil until golden. Add the seasoning, the olives, garlic, capers and mint.

Reduce the heat, and add the mixture of wine and vinegar gradually while the rabbit is cooking.

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 (this has always been my experience), add a little water, cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is soft – keep on adding the wine and vinegar. Remove the lid and evaporate the juices. Ensure that the rabbit is that deep golden brown colour when you serve it.

Decorate with fresh mint (for appearance and taste).

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