Sunday, 11 November 2007

Oven baked Caponata

With Winter fast approaching, my oven is starting to become the cooking medium of choice when making dishes. The thing that is so great about oven cooked foods over stove cooked ones is that the house becomes filled with generous, lingering aromas, and the food itself gets cooked with a heat that intensifies all the flavour, whilst caramalising at the same time - this works especially well sauces, and of course stews and other braised dishes. I haven't made a good oven cooked tomato sauce in ages, (which incidentally creates the most perfect, aromatic sauce for pasta) so I decided that this method would work well for a Caponata.
The Caponata is a Sicilian dish, often used as an antipasti - which uses aubergine, peppers and aliums. There are so many variations on this theme - and I am particularly fond of those that call for the inclusion of olives and capers that add a bitter, astringent edge to the softly sweet tomatoes and aubergine. Not only is this delicious on it's own - or preferably warm, served with some crusty wholemeal bread, but is delicious served with chicken breast that has been poached in stock, or meaty flat fish like plaice or halibut that have been roasted on the bone.

1 large Aubergine (eggplant)
2 Courgettes (zucchini)
3 Red Onions
4 fat cloves of Garlic
1 tin Organic Italian Plum Tomatoes
Sprigs of Thyme
Basil leaves to finish
50ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Basil leaves

The great thing about this dish is the ease with which this can be cooked, with such delicious results. Peel and slice the onions and cover the base of a ceramic roasting dish. Wash and halve the aubergines, and courgettes, and nestle the garlic cloves in amongst them. Douse with a good extra virgin olive oil (it is worth using the good stuff here as it really adds to the falvour of the dish) and scatter the thyme leaves. Bake on 180C for 35 minutes until the aubergines are cooked and caramalised on their cut edges. Remove the vegetables and some of the red onions and transfer to a smaller dish and return to the bottom of the oven to keep warm. You'll be left with the oil and half of the red onions and softly cooked garlic cloves. Crush these with the back of a fork, then add a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes and their juices. Season well and return to the oven to cook for a further 30 minutes until you have a thick tomato sauce. Chop the vegetables into pieces and mix in the the tomato sauce. Tear in Basil leaves and cook for a further 20 minutes to let the juices combine and cook together. If you like the addition of olives and capers, add them now. Either serve straight away, or when warm. But in all honesty this dish really requires a day to to sit and develop, if you can wait that long!


vida said...

We are having a Melbourne Foodie Bloggers get together tonight and this would have been great for the wood fired oven they are lighting tonight. I will post details over the next few days, should be fun! Vida x x x

Pete said...

That looks lush. I will make it next week. mmmm. A good excuse to attempt to make some italian bread which knowing me will be a complete failure!