Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Antipasti di Caprese e Insalata a Caponata

A caprese platter that is a nice light meal!
     Depending on the owner of each Italian restaurant that I worked in, the presentation of caprese varied from kitchen to kitchen.  Some presentations are plain simple perfection.  Others go too far from traditional.  Caprese is sliced ripe tomato and sliced fresh mozzarella with virgin olive oil and oregano.  Caprese should not be drowned with balsamic vinaegrette or other strong dressings!
     This antipasti platter features caprese, a simple salad and caponata.  An antipasti platter like this is commonly served as a business lunch item in fine restaurants.  Business lunch customers usually do not have time for a multi course meal.  Placing a few nice items on one antipasti platter will satify a lunch customer who is "on the go"!   
     We used to make our own fresh mozzarella from curd in a few Italian kitchens.  Stretching fresh curds to form fresh mozzarella cheese was relaxing work in the afternoon.  Quality store bought fresh mozzarella is fine for this recipe.  Fresh oregano is good, but most chefs prefer dried oregano for caprese.  Some herbs are better when dried.  Salt and pepper is never used on good fresh mozzarella, because it will mask the delicate milk flavors of the cheese.    
     Caponata Recipe:
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 generous splash of olive oil.
     Add 6 cloves of thin sliced garlic.
     Add 1 small handful of chopped onion.
     Add 1 small handful of chopped celery.
     Gently saute, till the vegetables become al dente.
     Cut the ends off of 1 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 sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 handful of peeled seeded plum tomato filets that are cut into strips.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add 1/4 cup of  balsamic vinegar.
     Add a tiny splash of water. 
     Note:  Do not 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 the liquid. 
     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 the flavors meld.
     Insalata Recipe: 
     Place a small mound of mixed lettuce on one part of a plate.
     Place a few slices of onion on the lettuce.
     Place a few thin slices of celery on the lettuce.
     Place a few thin carrot matchsticks on the lettuce.
     Place a few pitted black olives on the lettuce.
     Sprinkle a little bit of virgin olive oil over the lettuce.
     Sprinkle a little bit of Modena balsamic vinegar over the lettuce.
     Season the salad with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     The quality of the tomato and cheese is very important, when making caprese.  Choose the best!
     Alternate one sliced Roma tomato with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese on a serving plate.  The slices of mozzarella and tomato should be about 1/4" thick.  (3 or 4 slices of each is a nice portion)
     Drizzle a small amount of virgin olive oil over the cheese and tomatoes.
     Sprinkle 1 small pinch of oregano over the tomatoes and cheese.
     Do not season with salt or pepper!
     Antipasti di Caprese e Insalata a Caponata: 
     Place a mound of the insalata beside the caprese on the plate.
     Brush two thin slices of Italian bread with olive oil.
     Toast the crostini in an oven, till they become golden in color.
     Place the crostini on the plate.
     Place a small portion of the capanata on the plate.
     Yummy!  This is full plate of Italian antipasti platter that makes for a nice lunch!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna

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