Caponata Siciliana | Eggplant, Olive, and Celery Appetizer

This is a beautiful dish with Roman origins, from Sicily. There is something  beautifully different about some of the taste combinations you’ll find in Sicily, especially the tendency to combine sweet and sour – a legacy, they say, of ancient Roman days when sweet dates were used instead of tomatoes and sugar.

La caponata, one of the most famous Sicilian dishes, is a good example. It’s a cousin to the ratatouille of Provence. Caponata features eggplant, with celery, tomato and onions along with capers and olives. These are typical Southern Italian flavours. And it has that sweet-and-sour touch that perfectly balances out the flavours. It layers different flavours one upon the other, and, if you care to cook it for 30 mins or more, the flavours are deep and glorious and the consistency almost jam-like.

Serve Caponata on its own, hot or room temperature, on a Sunday afternoon (with a glass of wine, of course), or in the traditional manner as an antipasto. Caponata can be served on bruschetta, with flatbread or with salad leaves, and it’s also perfect as a side dish or even as a relish.

Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray note warily in the River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook that “there are as many ways to make caponata as there are cooks in Sicily”, a fact confirmed by Giorgio Locatelli, who claims that “in every house and in every restaurant you will find a different version and opinion.”

There are many versions of Caponata on Sicily – apparently 37 official versions, depending on local customs. The differences lie in the addition of different vegetables, for example potatoes, bell peppers, zucchini.

Are you looking for other Eggplant dishes? Try Babaganoush, Grilled Eggplant Salad, Baingan ka Bharta and Eggplant Fry.

We have other Celery recipes too. Try Celery Yoghurt Salad, Spicy Celery Salad, and Chickpea, Celery and Carrot Salad with a Curry Dressing.

Or perhaps some other Italian dishes. Try Farinata, Marinated Zucchini Salad, Wet Polenta and Tomato Layers, and Grilled Sweet Peppers and Eggplants.

Or you can browse all of our Eggplant recipes, all of our Celery recipes, or all of our Italian recipes. Alternatively, take some time to explore our Mid Autumn dishes.

This is a recipe from our first blog which ran from 1995 – 2006. You can browse all of the vegetarian recipes from that blog in our Retro Recipes series.

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Mograbieh (Giant Couscous) and Artichoke Pilaf

Fregola, Mograbieh, Israeli Couscous, Moftoul, Ptitim, Jerusalem Couscous, Pearl Couscous, Ben-Gurion rice, Lebanese Couscous, Giant Couscous, Kabyle Abazine – no wonder you are confused. These are all variations of couscous used through the Middle East, around the coast to Sardinia, and into Israel. They vary in size and shape, construction and ingredients but are generally larger couscous/pasta with either a round-ish or rice-like shape.

Although the different types can generally be used interchangeably, technically speaking, there are some differences between the products of different countries. Some are an extruded pasta, similar to Italian orzo, made with semolina and flour which is toasted to dry. These have a nuttier flavour than normal couscous. Another type is Ptitim, or Israeli Couscous, a type of toasted pasta and shaped either like rice-grains or little balls. It was developed in Israel in the 1950s when rice was scarce.

Others, like Mograbieh (Lebanese) and Maftoul (Palestinian), are rolled and dried large couscous pearls about the size of tapioca pearls. When cooked they have a chewy buttery flavour and are larger than Israeli Couscous. These starchy pasta balls swell and become soft and chewy as they cook, and are excellent at absorbing the flavours of the dish they are cooked in.

Sadly, the globalisation of food has meant that differences get smoothed over, and names get mixed, or all the variations merge into one product. Locally, for a long time I was only able to find the extruded pasta type (labelled Israeli Couscous!), but more recently a local Afghan shop stocks the best Mograbieh.

While Ottolenghi uses Fregola for this dish, I suggest using any of the above large couscous types that you have at hand or that are easy for you to purchase. It will still be excellent!

Yes, this is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More. In fact, it is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often slightly massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.

This dish is an unusual one – hearty yet fresh. It is best served just warm or at room temperature.

Similar recipes include Artichoke Hearts with Mozzarella and Candied Citrus, Saffron Mograbieh Pilaf with Broad Beans, Barley Pilaf with Mushrooms, and Rice and Cauliflower Pilaf.

Browse all of our Large Couscous dishes, and all of our Pilafs. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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So Easy Tomato Risotto

We know that we are slipping into Autumn when we begin to cook more rice dishes. Rice puddings and risotto begin to feature at the table, just as long sleeves and light jackets begin to feature in our wardrobe.

Risotto is so easy to make – about 10 mins max prep time, and 20 mins to cook. One pot, little action, just stirring stirring stirring. It is relaxing and meditative. Heaven. Autumn. The pace of life is slower this month.

Similar recipes include Radicchio Risotto, Risotto with Mushrooms, and Parsnip Risotto with Rosemary.

Browse all of our Risotto recipes and all of our Tomato dishes. Our Italian recipes are here. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Bucatini con Zucchini | Bucatini with Zucchini

Bucatini are the long hollow pasta noodles, like slightly thicker spaghetti but with a hole though the middle that helps it cook in reasonable time. They are really delicious. I grabbed some zucchini from the garden and char grilled them to make this simple but delicious pasta dish for a week day lunch with a friend. It is a simple recipe that allows the taste of the cheeses to shine through. Gorgeous.

Similar recipes include Bucatini with a Raw Tomato Sauce, Marinated Zucchini Gratin, and Pasta with Zucchini and Pesto.

Browse all of our pasta dishes and all of our Zucchini recipes. Our Italian dishes are here.  Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Baked Figs with Cheese and Honey

As Autumn arrives, even before, my Italian-owned green grocery is full of figs – green, black and in between. What a gorgeous time it is – the last of the summer stone fruits, grapes, plums – one of my 4 favourite seasons of the year!

I must admit to liking my fruit, any fruit, fresh. You will see that we don’t have a lot of fruit recipes in our collection because of that. But once in a while, we will bake, grill or roast, maybe poach, something sweet.

Figs are so wonderful in their natural state, and we have several salads that attest to that. They pair well with cheese, honey, and even almonds and pinenuts! Figs are simply gorgeous this way.

But roasting brings in another dimension. It is a different taste – just as fig jam tastes different to fresh figs. Roasted figs are soft, warm and sticky, and they shine with either savoury flavours, sweet flavours, or a mix of both. They can be mashed onto bruschetta and topped with pesto, without the honey they can be used with pasta, or top a green salad with them. Serve them for breakfast, lunch, dessert, a snack or supper.

Are you looking for Fig recipes? Try Boozy Baked Figs, Figs with Rosewater and Almonds, Fig Salad with Almond Butter Dressing, and Figs with Pecorino.

Browse all of our Fig recipes here, all of our Italian recipes, and all of our Dessert recipes. Or take some time to browse our Late Summer dishes.

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Radicchio Risotto | Risotto al Radicchio

Oh goodness! The vibrant colour of the bitter leaves of radicchio! I love them in my kitchen, but they are not the cheapest of vegetables to buy so they are not a weekly visitor. However, radicchio is so versatile, and incredibly good.

Today we make a risotto with this glorious vegetable. It is added at the beginning of the cooking process, and thus becomes very tender during the 20 mins of stirring that makes a risotto.

Do be careful about the rice that you use for risotto. You will get the best results using a risotto rice. You can read more about that here. My favourite at the moment, and the one that I used for this dish, is Carnaroli.

Are you looking for Radicchio recipes? Read more about this incredible vegetable here. Try Grilled Radicchio with Shallots and Dill, and Red Rice Congee topped with Radicchio.

Try other risottos too – So Easy Tomato Risotto, Beetroot Risotto, Caramelised Pumpkin Risotto, Mushroom Risotto, and Asparagus Risotto are some of our favourites. You can see how to make a basic risotto here.

Check out all of our Risotto recipes, and all of our Italian recipes. We have some other Radicchio recipes too – check them out here. You might like to browse our easy Late Summer recipes here.

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Green Olive Tapenade

There are a great number of recipes around for a spread made from green olives, but this is the easiest. Made with ingredients straight from your kitchen, no special purchases required, it is made in seconds, and your family or gang of friends will devour it in minutes.

This tapenade is salty, spicy (from the chilli) and pungent (from the garlic). Just perfect for a cool Early Summer day’ snacks on the verandah with some aniseed tea.

Similar recipes include Fava, Tapenade Bread Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzarella, Tomato Salad with Green Olives, and Olive and Orange Salad with Mint and Basil.

Browse all of our Olive recipes and all of our Spreads. Or explore our Early Summer recipes.

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Capunti Pasta with Basil and Tomato

Capunti Pasta is a country pasta from Puglia in the Southern part of Italy – one of the several open pasta shapes that originate in that area. It is great for holding robust sauces, but also for very simple accompaniments that highlight the flavours of the pasta and other ingredients.

Today, the basil is looking beautiful, and I do love pasta with tomatoes in summer, so we brought them together for a great dish for a light summery lunch.

You might like to have a look at similar dishes. Try Tagliatelle with Walnuts and Lemon, Pasta with a Cauliflower Sauce, Pasta Sauce with Aubergine, Red Peppers and Tomato, and Elegant Orzo Pasta with Wilted Spinach and Pine Nuts.

All of our Pasta recipes are here, or browse our Italian recipes. Read about different pastas, including Capunt. Perhaps we have other Capunti recipes. Or take some time to browse our Early Summer recipes.

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Schiacciata with Cheese Topping

If Focaccia is half way between pizza and bread, then Schiacciata is half way between Focaccia and Pizza. It is flat and usually infused beautifully with olive oil.

Originally cooked in the ashes of the hearth, schiacciata, meaning squashed, is flat and 2 – 3 cm thick (but can be thinner). Variations of the bread are made throughout Italy. In Tuscany, it is simply brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Herbs such as rosemary can be added. A sweet version with grapes and sugar is also made.

This recipe with onion and cheese is great weekday lunch-at-home fare, even for Sunday night supper. It is great with a hearty soup. Maybe Onion Soup would be fabulous. In late Summer, pair it with ripe, bursting figs and celebrate the end of summer.

You might also liked our Focaccia recipes. Our pizza recipes are here. If you need pizza dough, the recipes are here. Feel free to browse other recipes from our Retro Recipes series. Or explore our Late Spring dishes.

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Broad Bean Puree with Chilli Oil

As broad beans get older, they suit purees and spreads really well. It is very simple – simmer them for some time, peel each bean, and then puree them with herbs. It makes a delicious snack on toast – I love it at morning tea time with a good cuppa. Or use the puree to make a fresh, spring soup by adding some stock or water and thinly sliced spring vegetables.

Are you after other Broad Bean recipes? Try Broad Bean and Mint Mash, Fava Bean Puree with Dill, Glorious Five Bean Salad, and 13 Treasure Happiness Soup.

You might like to look at our other Broad Bean Purees here, and all of our Broad Bean recipes. Browse our Italian recipes as well. Or take time out and explore our Late Spring recipes.

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Umbrian Sauce for a Cure | Salsa di Curata | Herby Mustard Sauce or Dressing

This Umbrian Sauce is an approximation of an old recipe for a sauce which is said to cure many maladies, using modern day ingredients. It keeps very well in the fridge, so if you are feeling under the weather, make a batch and drizzle it on everything. I do love it on a green salad. Since moving into this house with its excellent back yard, we are never without greens suitable for salads.

It is herby and mustardy. You can imagine why it has a reputation of being a cure-all.

Similar recipes include Garlic-Yoghurt Dressing, Roast Capsicum Sauce and Dressing, Almond Butter Dressing, and Umbrian Broad Bean Puree.

You might like to browse our Dressings here and Sauces here. Our Italian recipes are here. Or browse our Late Summer recipes.

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Umbrian Broad Bean Puree | Broad Bean Sauce

Traditionally an Easter dish, this Umbrian Broad Bean Puree is eaten on toasted crusty bread that has been drizzled with olive oil. But it is equally as good with vegetables, pasta and as a dressing in salads.

It is a simple but gorgeous, flavoursome dish.

Similar recipes include Broad Bean Puree with Chilli OilUmbrian Cure-all Sauce, Young Broad Bean Pod Puree, Broad Bean and Mint Mash, and Broad Bean and Butter Bean Spread.

You might like to look at our other Broad Bean recipes. Browse our Italian recipes here, and our Broad Bean Puree recipes are here. Or take time out and explore our Late Spring recipes.

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Grilled Pecorino Wrapped in Vine Leaves

Do you have a grape vine, or access to grape vine leaves? Then this is for you. A great tea time snack, they are definitely delightful.

Pecorino is wrapped in vine leaves and then grilled until the cheese melts and the leaves crisp a little. You can even cook these on a BBQ.

Grape leaves are best picked from grape vines in the Spring and Early Summer, while they are still tender. Select young whole, medium leaves. Make sure  that the leaves haven’t been sprayed.

Similar recipes include Dolmades, Burghul Dolmas, Baked Yoghurt in Vine Leaves, Mushrooms Baked in Grape Vine Leaves and Grape Vine Leaf Powder.

Browse our grape vine leaf recipes, our Italian dishes and our French recipes. Or take some time to explore our collection of Late Spring recipes.

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Orecchiette with Broad Beans | Pasta and Broad Beans

Orecchiette is a little shell shaped pasta, delicious and sourced from my newly-found Italian providore not far from our new house. It’s a delightful little shop, family run, with the most warm, friendly and helpful staff. As I stocked up with supplies I was asked what I was cooking and we discussed recipes and methods for ages.

Broad Beans are my passion of the moment, food-wise. Neglected for all of the other years of my life, we are also very fortunate to have an Italian-owned green grocery close by. So Broad Beans are there by the big box full every week, and now we grow our own also. I have fallen in love with this little green, grassy tasting fresh bean. It has been great to see the season through, from the tiny new pods, to the larger, more mature pods later in the season, and to adapt recipes as the season progresses.

Similar recipes include Saffron Mograbieh Pilaf with Broad Beans, Penne with Broad Beans and Ricotta, Broad Beans with Feta and Preserved Lemon, and Broad Beans with Crispy Garlic.

Also try Capunti Pasta with Basil and Tomatoes.

You might like to look at our other Broad Bean recipes. Browse our Italian recipes here as well. Our Pasta recipes are here. Or take time out and explore our Late Spring dishes.

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Beetroot Risotto

Beetroot Risotto is something very special. Bright ruby red, luscious, creamy, just perfect with a glass of wine and a salad. Enjoy!

We have been making this risotto since 1999 – that’s such a long time. Risottos for us are a wonderful Friday night meal if we are eating and relaxing at home. The week is done, we can take our time, chat, listen to music, drink a little wine if we are in the mood.

I love to make this when I can find beetroot straight out of my garden. The first time I made it, all those years ago, was with fresh beetroot straight from an organic Clare Valley vegetable garden. The difference in taste to store-bought beetroot is amazing. Right now, we try to keep our own beetroot growing in our garden.

The risotto is such an beautiful colour. Serve on white or green plates for maximum effect.

If this is the first time that you are making risotto, read Risotto Basics 101 first. If this is the first time you are roasting beetroot, have a look here.

Similar recipes include Risotto with Radicchio, Parsnip Risotto, Asparagus Risotto, Beetroot and Pinot Risotto, and Risotto with Mushrooms.

You might like our other Beetroot recipes or our other Risotto recipes. Check out our easy Late Spring recipes here.

This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006.  You can find other recipes from that blog in the Retro Recipes series.

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