Saturday, April 01, 2006

Caponata or Muffaletta

Caponata and Muffaletta....... Don't be afraid of the odd sounding names or the long list of ingredients. These are quick and easy to make, and so very delicious that they will become favorites in your house.

What is the difference, anyway? They are both delicious vegetable mixtures that are used as either a salad or a pickle, with Caponata being the Italian version and Muffaletta being the Cajun version. Caponata is cooked and always contains eggplant; muffaletta is marinated and always contains olives. I love them both and have two killer recipes.

This will be a splurge for us, but we haven't gone out to eat, not even to get McDonalds fries in weeks! We've been sooooo good about our food budget that I think we can handle the specialty items like artichoke hearts.... I'll decide which one I make after I go food shopping later on today, and will post a photo then.

So, what do you DO with these two zesty vegetable mixtures anyway? Well, certainly you can use them as a garnish for burgers, patties, chops... I've put them on pizza! My daughter eats them as a dip, scooping huge mouthfuls out with pretzels.

But my favorite is as a sandwich filling. What you do is take a round loaf of bread and cut the top off. Pull out the insides so you have a bread bowl. Layer some caponata, then sliced cheese and Italian coldcuts, then repeat. Put the lid on the bowl, wrap in aluminum foil, and bake in a slow oven for about 15 minutes so that everything is nice and melty. Let sit for another 15 minutes (or until it reaches room temp, even). Then cut wedges and enjoy. Yum! However, its lent now, so the cold cuts and cheese slices are out, unless you use vegan versions (which I don't), so I'll probably use it as a garnish and a dip, or maybe mixed with pasta for a nice pasta salad.

1 C chopped green olives
1 C chopped celery
1 carrot, peeled and sliced very, very thin
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C chopped artichoke hearts
3 green onions sliced or 1/2 C minced sweet onion (like Vidalia)
1/4 C lemon juice or white wine vinegar
2 anchovy fillets, chopped fine or 1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste or 1/2 tsp salt
1 C chopped black olives
1/2 C chopped pimentos
1/2 C chopped cauliflower florets
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs capers
1 tsp Herbes de Provence, or equal parts of oregano, basil and thyme
1 tsp hot cajun seasoning like Tony Chachere's (E's favorite spice)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together well, cover tightly, and let marinate in the fridge at least overnight.

1 eggplant cut in 1/2 inch cubes (about 1.5 - 2 lbs)
3 med zucchini in 1/2 inch cubes
2 onions finely chopped
1 Tbs chopped garlic
3 stalks celery, sliced fine
2 green peppers, chopped
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 C chopped parsley, or 1 heaping Tbs dried
2 tsp dried basil
3 anchovy fillets (optional)
4 oz sliced mushrooms
1 lb Italian plum tomatoes or 1 lb crushed canned
3 Tbs red wine vinegar (or more to taste, up to 1/2 C even)
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 C raisins
1/4 C chopped green olives
1 tsp salt (more if you don't use anchovies)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C chopped black olives
2 Tbs capers (optional, but I love them)
1/4 C browned pine nuts or sunflower seeds

Saute first 12 ingredients together in the olive oil until soft and limp, about 15 minutes. Add in tomatoes and saute over med heat another 10-15 minutes. Stir in vinegar and remainder of ingredients except nuts and saute for 5 more minutes. Take off heat and let sit for several hours or overnight in the fridge to blend flavors. Stir nuts in last.

To cook in crockpot: Combine all ingredients up to and including the raisins in the crockpot and cook on low for 5 - 6 hours. Stir in the remaining ingredients and let sit for several hours or overnight in the fridge to blend flavors. Stir in nuts last.

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