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Caponata with root vegetables is fall delight | TribLIVE.com
Food & Drink

Caponata with root vegetables is fall delight

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, November 29, 2014 7:57 p.m
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Kate Previte
Vegetable Caponata on Sweet Potato Crisps

One of the most memorable dishes I ever tasted during autumn was a caponata from Sicily I had decades ago. To replicate the dichotomy of sweet and sour flavors I fell so deeply in love with, I’ve paired my Vegetable Caponata with Sweet Potato Crisps as my serving vessel. Some caponata recipes call for sugar and vinegar, but the beauty of my key ingredient in this recipe, apple cider vinegar, is that you kill two birds with one stone. Apple cider vinegar also tones down the sour taste found in some caponatas that use red or white vinegars. I hit my pan with the cider vinegar and a splash of water only when my cubed root vegetables have just barely browned.

Celery root is an odd and delicious vegetable, resembling something from an alien galaxy that crash landed at the farmers market. However, when you peel it and cut it into little cubes, as is the traditional Sicilian style of preparing caponata, this oddity turns into something dreamy. All the vegetables in this dish (celery root, fennel, sweet potato and onion) can go into the pan raw because they are cubed so finely. If you want larger sweet potato crisps with a heftier portion of caponata, I would suggest roasting your root vegetables just through before tossing them together in a large cast-iron skillet.

The sweet and sour tones are made ever richer with the subtle saltiness in this recipe. To add a hit of flavor before serving to guests, I add a pinch of regular table salt and freshly cracked black pepper. It’s important to use kosher salt when you want to marinate or brine things, which is my go-to during the holiday season. However, with this recipe, I simply use sea salt. Remember that it never needs to be complicated in your home pantry, and salt should be the least of your worries. To finish the dish, I like to use a flakey sea salt, like Maldon, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind 24 restaurants including Eataly, DelPosto, and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo.

Vegetable Caponata on Sweet Potato Crisps

For the caponata:

Olive oil

12 cup onion ( 14-inch dice)

12 cup celery root ( 14-inch dice)

12 cup fennel ( 14-inch dice; reserving the fennel fronds)

12 cup sweet potato ( 14-inch dice)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

14 cup apple cider vinegar

14 cup water

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

For the sweet potato crisps:

2 cups sweet potatoes (peeled and grated)

13 medium onion, finely chopped

1 large egg, beaten

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Olive oil

To prepare the caponata: In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the onions for 1 to 2 minutes until they are soft and slightly caramelized. Add the remaining vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the vegetables are caramelized and soft, deglaze the pan with the vinegar and water and reduce until all the liquid has evaporated. Adjust the seasoning, remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in the mint.

To prepare the crisps: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, onion, egg and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.

In another cast-iron skillet, over medium-high heat, add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When it is hot, use a tablespoon measure and scoop heaping tablespoons of the sweet potato mixture into the pan, pressing them to be about 14-inch thick. It may be necessary to work in batches, depending on the size of the pan. Cook the crisps for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

When the crisps are soft and cooked through, remove them to a plate lined with paper towels. To serve, top the crisps with the caponata and garnish with fennel fronds.

Makes 15 servings.

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