You must try the Sicilian Caponata, every guide book told me. It is the flavor of Sicily, they said. I did. I tried many varieties of the quintessential eggplant dish, and all were delicious. Generally, the dish involves eggplant, although my research has shown that it is the sweet and sour dressing of vegetables, not the eggplant that make a dish a caponata. But let’s be honest, most of the time it is an Eggplant Caponata!
When I first started reading about Catalan food, this is the dish that I kept seeing at the top of every “you must try this” dish. This easy and rustic dish is very satisfying. It works beautifully on its own, or as a pairing to a series of other dishes, or perhaps a platter of roast meats. I chose some of my favorite vegetables to roast, but, you can change up the vegetables by season. Perhaps some asparagus and summer squash in the warmer months. Or leeks in the winter? The best part, you can make this ahead and serve it chilled! This is an amazing quality for a dinner where you are preparing several dishes.
I have been particularly interested in squid ink. I love the idea of it and have wanted to use it for a very long time, I figured this would be my opportunity. Here, we combine squid ink and calamari to create a wonderful tinny, “oceany” flavor. The black rice is enlivened with coral shrimp or prawns (I didn’t have prawns on hand but believe it would be a more delicious flavor/presentation) and a garlicky aioli. Find my Aioli recipe here.
The Bouillabaisse is foolproof! Bouillabaisse originates from Marseilles and was made of cheap cuts of fish and eaten by fishermen who reserved the better cuts to sell. Since then, it has become a quintessential dish. It is served with baguette and a Rouille drizzled into the soup to add flavor, much in the same way that sour cream is added to the Russian Borsht.
I first served this dish on the infamous election night of 2016. We threw a big bash, called South of the Border, we were all very hopeful, you see. The night turned sour, but the recipe was delicious! The tomatillo salsa verde paired beautifully with carnitas slowly braised with orange juice and zest.
Today, I wanted to make some fried green tomatoes, but figured the acidic baby tomatoes would be a great topping for a sweet corn velouté. A velouté is a French term meaning velvet. It refers to soups that are thickened with butter and cream and eggs. I have made a Celery and Asparagus Veloutés with Bacon Croutons, both are Nico’s favorite soups. My friend Anwar handed me 8 ears of corn earlier this week, which felt like a rarity for the season, I decided they would make a perfect velvety soup! In this iteration, I thicken the soup with cream, potatoes, and a bit of duck fat to pair with the Fried Green Tomatoes which are fried in duck fat.
I wanted to create something hearty and reminiscent of the harvest. I have a plethora of tomatoes growing in my garden, and am actively seeking for ways to use them up. Nico has been talking about eating more lentils, so I wanted to incorporate lentil and tomato here. I decided to roast the tomatoes with some garlic cloves, onion, and bacon for about an hour before slowly braising with the red wine. If you are in a hurry, you can simply sauté the bacon, tomato, and onions for a similar result.
In preparation for my Moroccan Dinner coming up in two weeks, I ordered a beautiful, hand molded, unglazed cooking tagine. I looked at many many options! There are gorgeous serving tagines with intricate patterns and glazes, and perfectly molded wheel-thrown tagines, but for me, there was something really appealing about this slightly awkward, not quite…