martedì 14 maggio 2013

Sicilian giardiniera

One of the many beautiful shops in Taormina. (Photo taken by the
author, 7 August 2011)
Last Wednesday, I went to the supermarket to buy eggplant, to make caponata.  No eggplant!  Not even one eggplant! (Well, there was one.  But, to make a more dramatic story ...) Not a single eggplant!

There were zucchini — beautiful, almost perfect.  I bought six, and I decided to attempt a zucchini caponata.

Failure No. 2: Zucchini contain much more water than eggplant. Canned tomatoes contain more liquid than fresh ones.  I was so careful not to burn the vegetables and to preserve their liquid that nothing browned.  A complete nonsuccess.

On the other hand, the taste wasn't bad.  And I couldn't allow myself to throw away so much food.  So, I put all of this lousy caponata in various glass jars (between 13 and 17 oz.), and I put them in the fridge. 

Forty-eight hours passed.

I opened one of the jars.  The vegetables had taken on a different character.  I realized that, by accident (by two accidents!), I made a wonderful Sicilian giardiniera!


extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, whole
1 red (NOT green) bell pepper, sliced
4 stalks celery, cut in squares
6 zucchini, cut in medallions
6 peeled tomatoes, cut (If you use canned, DON'T add the liquid from the can, only the liquid that naturally is inside the tomatoes.)
1 C red wine vinegar (I used cabernet sauvignon vinegar.  If you happened to find nero d'avola vinegar, even better!)
300 g green (not black) olives, pitted, whole
75 g capers, well rinsed
1 TB sugar
freshly-ground black pepper
fresh basil


I used my beloved Creuset.  And now, I share with you one of the greatest secrets of the Dutch oven.

When you want to prepare vegetables, or meat with vegetables, you don't need to add liquid to them.  Put aluminum foil between the cover and the pot.  Everything steams, nothing burns, and the flavors blend in a way that you believe that you've risen to Heaven!

Returning to earth and to our giardiniera:

Heat the Dutch oven and add the first five ingredients.  Put the foil and the cover, and on rather low heat cook for 10-15 minutes. 

Add the zucchini.  Put back the cover and the foil, and still on low heat cook for 20-25 minutes. 

Add the tomatoes, put back the cover and foil, and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the cover and foil. Add the vinegar and sugar.  Raise the heat and cook, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes or until it just begins to boil. 

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.  If the zucchini are already done — soft but NOT disintegrated — shut the heat.

If the zucchini are still al dente, lower the heat, put back the cover and foil, and cook very slowly for about ten minutes or so. 

Shut the heat, let it cool enough to be able to put it in the refrigerator, and forget about it for 48 hours.

A giardiniera with the flavors and the spirit of caponata – you will become an addict!

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