Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Antipasti! Insalata di Bonito Carciofi con Caponata e Mozzarella Crostini






A nice platter of Italian antipasti!
   
     Caponata Recipe:
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of olive oil.
     Add 6 cloves of thin sliced garlic.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped celery.
     Gently saute till the vegetables become aldente.
     Cut the ends off of a medium size eggplant.  (Leave the skin on the eggplant.)
     Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise.
     Cut the two eggplant halves into 1/4" thick slices.
     Add the eggplant slices to the pan.
     Saute till the eggplant starts to become tender.
     Add olive oil if necessary.  Eggplant absorbs oil!
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 cup of plum tomato filets that are cut into strips.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add 1/4 cup of  balsamic vinegar.
     Add 1/4 cup of water. 
     Note:  The mixture should look like a vegetable stew that has very little liquid.  At this point, stirring occasionally is key.  Don't let this caponata get too mushy by simmering for too much time.  Only add a minimum amount of the balsamic vinegar and a tiny splash of water, so that the time spent simmering will not be long.
     Gently stir the caponata.
     Gently simmer and reduce till there is no excess of liquid and the vegetables are well coated. 
     The caponata should be rich and dark colored with the thick sauce clinging to the vegetables.
     Remove the caponata from the heat. 
     Place the caponata into a container and chill it in a refrigerator.
     Chill the caponata for at least two hours before serving, so that all the flavors meld.
   
     Insalata di Bonito Carciofi Recipe:
     Bonito is in the tuna family.  The flavor of bonito is a little bit stronger than bluefin tuna.
     Place a 4 to 6 ounce bonito filet on a baking pan.
     Season the filet with sea salt and black pepper.
     Add a generous splash of water to the pan.
     Bake the bonito in a 350 degree oven, till it is fully cooked.
     Cool the bonito to room temperature.
     Use a fork to flake the bonito meat into thin small pieces.
     Place the flaked bonito into a mixing bowl.
     Add 6 to 8 pitted black olives that are cut in half.
     Add 1 handful of quartered artichoke hearts.  (Canned artichoke hearts are fine for this recipe.)
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add a small squeeze of lemon juice.
     Add just enough virgin olive oil to coat the ingredients.
     Toss the ingredients together and chill in a refrigerator.
   
     Mozzarella Crostini Recipe:
     Cut 4 thin slices of Italian bread.
     Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil.
     Place the bread slices on a baking pan.
     Bake in a 350 degree oven, till the bread slices become lightly toasted and crisp.
     Place a thin slice of fresh mozzarella on each crostini.
     Return the pan to the oven.
     Bake untill the fresh mozzarella becomes soft.  (Do not brown the cheese or it will have a bitter flavor!)
     Sprinkle a pinch of oregano over the cheese.
   
     Insalata di Bonito Carciofi con Caponata e Mozzarella Crostini:
     Place a small mound of mixed lettuce onto a platter.
     Garnish the lettuce with a few sliced carrots and onion slices.
     Place a few slices of tomato on the platter around the lettuce.
     Place the bonito carciofi mixture on top of the lettuce.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of coarse ground black pepper over the salad.
     Place a small portion of caponata on the platter.
     Place the mozzarella crostini on the platter.
   
     This is a satisfying, healthy and great tasting antipasti platter!  Placing the caponata or the  bonito carciofi on a slice of the cheese crostini while dining creates such a nice combination of flavor.  I made the bread a couple days ago and it is perfect for making crostini.  Slightly staled bread is best for crostini.
     This coponata recipe is one of many regional styles of Italian caponata.  Italian cooking is simplicity at its best.  Quality ingredients and good techniques are the key to making good Italian food.  Italian cuisine creates great flavors from a just a few ingredients.  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna

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