Earlier this year I mentioned that we’ve been getting a bushel of organic vegetables every Wednesday as part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. The vegetables are grown at the Honey Brook Organic Farm in Chesterfield, NJ and Dean’s Market is one of the local pickup points. When you belong to the program you commit to buy either a full bushel or a half bushel of fresh, organic produce for the entire growing season.
The photo above shows some of the contents of this week’s bushel (except for the olives and the capers, which we already had in our refrigerator). Although we have an idea of what we’ll be getting based on a “growing season” chart of what’s expected to be harvested each month, every week is a bit of a surprise. This week’s bushel also contained celery, cherry tomatoes, dill, hot peppers and potatoes.
After unpacking our bushel and seeing so many bell peppers plus the eggplant, shallots, tomatoes and the zucchini, we decided we were going to make Sicilian caponata and use some of it to stuff the peppers. Instead of adding rice to the stuffing mix, we used some leftover quinoa.
If you Google “Sicilian Caponata” you’ll find quite a few different recipes, but all of them begin with eggplant, onions tomatoes and zucchini. We almost never use exact amounts of each, so I assume we’re cooking the way our grandmothers used to do: use what you have, and don’t worry if it comes out a little different each time. We start by cutting up the eggplants up into chunks about 1 inch by 1 ½ inches in size; then we put them in the oven to roast at 400 degrees for about 30 – 40 minutes to bring out the good flavors.
While the eggplant was roasting, we cut up the onions, put them into a pot, add some water and heat them up until they’re soft. I just look in the refrigerator and see what else we happen to have. Today I found some celery and two carrots, so I cut those up and added them to the pot (the carrots make it more of a stew than a real caponata, so you might decide you want to leave them out). Then I cut up each of the tomatoes into 8 pieces and threw them in to simmer. After cutting off the tops of the bell peppers, we removed the stems, cut up what was left of the tops, and threw them into the pot with everything else.
We like our caponata with black olives and capers, so I took about a dozen black olives, cut them in half and added them. Then I took several generous scoops of large capers and added them to the pot as well. After the roasted eggplant was ready, that went into the pot and we let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Then we shut off the heat, poured a few tablespoons of olive oil into the pot, and stirred it up well. If you were just making caponata, it would be ready to serve.
Now we were ready to stuff the peppers: we took out a clean glass bowl and put the leftover quinoa in it. Then we added caponata to the quinoa until we liked the way the mixture looked (probably about 1/3 quinoa to 2/3 caponata, but you might like some other ratio). We saved the rest of the caponata to have some other night.
We put the bell pepper shells into a baking dish and filled them with the quinoa-caponata mixture. We covered the baking dish and put it into the over at 350 degrees for 30 minutes; Then we removed the cover and let it bake for another 15 minutes (you can do it uncovered a bit longer if you like it crunchier on top). At that point, the stuffed peppers are ready to be served with a green vegetable, a salad and whatever else you decide to have for dinner.
I’ve been blogging about the Rumson-Fair Haven area for about 3 years, and this is the only “recipe” I’ve posted. Even if you don’t like stuffed peppers, try making caponata some night. The black olives and the capers add just enough salt so you don’t have to add any more to give it a great flavor.
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