Fruit Caponata

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A while back I wrote a post on a young man who is a spice expert. His name is Lior Lev Sercarz, and he opened a spice store called La Boîte in New York City in 2007. I titled the blog post The Spice Companion, because that is the name of his first book, published in 2016. It’s a fascinating and hefty encyclopedia of spices.

La Boîte, the store, sells spices, but also has classes, dinners, and wonderful gift offerings.

If you can’t get to New York City, La Boîte has a beautiful website where one can purchase unique spices and spice blends. It’s like Penzey’s on crack.

Read my blog post if you want to be impressed by a young man on a world-wide mission to study spices. His journey from a kibbutz in Israel to New York City via France, working with notable chefs, is a great read.

I receive the monthly La Boîte newsletter, and it was in a recent issue where I discovered this fruit caponata recipe, created by Christian Leue.

In the newsletter, Mr. Leue describes his fondness of Sicily, and how in the town of Rosolini he was once served a caponata made of fruit, alongside a grilled veal ribeye. Traditional caponata is not made with fruit, but is instead a savory Sicilian eggplant dish.

Based on his dining experience, he created his own version of fruit caponata. From the newsletter: “It’s a supremely versatile condiment, bright and freshly acidic, with a deep but forgiving sweetness.”

He served his caponata with “a simply seared salmon and fluffy basmati rice topped with toasted almonds.” A sprinkle of Izak N37, a La Boîte spice blend, ties all the flavors together.” This is a photo of that meal from the newsletter.

Here is the spice blend Izak N37. It contains sweet chilies, garlic, cumin, salt, and spices.

Previously on the blog I’ve made a fruit compote As well as roasted fruit in parchment, and chutney, but this recipe is like none of those. See what you think.

Fruit Caponata
printable recipe below

1 cup whole red cherries, stems removed if you like (you can also leave them on as a reminder not to eat the pits)
2 firm nectarines, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 Vidalia onion, peeled, 1-inch dice
2 cups mixed whole grapes
2-3 Tbsp wine vinegar (either white or red is fine, amount will depend on acidity, some wine vinegars are above the standard 5%)
1 Tbsp olive oil
sweetener, to taste (I prefer chestnut honey)
salt, to taste

For the caponata, combine all ingredients except salt and sweetener in a sauce pot with a lid and cook, covered, over medium heat until everything has softened, about 25 minutes.

Adjust to taste with salt and sweetener of your choice, and additional vinegar, if desired. Instead of honey, I used maple syrup.

Leaving the fruit whole or in large chunks keeps it from getting mushy, and you’ll get a lovely red color from the cherry skins.

Depending on the season you can also try adding/substituting: strawberries, small plums, quince, figs, apple, or pear.

The only way I veered from the original recipe was to somewhat reduce the liquid remaining in the pot after cooking the caponata.

According to Mr. Leue, “The caponata goes really well with most anything you want to throw at it. Try it with brined pork chops, pan fried and served with spätzle. Or alongside farro pilaf and braised chicken thighs. I followed his suggestion and gently seared a salmon filet, but didn’t make rice.

And I used Izak N37 on the salmon.

This fruit caponata is definitely unique. If I have to compare it to a condiment, I guess it would mostly closely mimic a chutney, because of the sweet and savory components.


The caponata is pretty because the fruit isn’t chopped, but I found it more challenging to eat. But all in all it was an interesting and delicious condiment to prepare, and so many different fruit options are possible, much like a chutney.

And the Izak N37? Fabulous!

The 2nd book already published by Serarz is The Art of Blending: Stories and Recipes from La Boîte’s Spice Journey. His third book is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

 

 

 

 

A Delightfully Decadent Potato Salad

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For Father’s Day this year I made a deliciously decadent potato and corn salad, as a side dish to barbecue pulled pork.

Typically when I make a potato salad, I use a vinaigrette as a light, zingy binder; I grew up on this more “German” version of potato salads.

But this time I wanted a creamy potato salad, more like the American version, but with delightful goodies added – hence, the name.

This potato-corn salad was so good, it was barely 2 weeks before I made it again, serving it alongside grilled flank steak.

Here’s what I did.

A Delightfully Decadent Potato Salad
serves about 12

1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
8 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
12 ounces diced, cooked bacon
10 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chili powder*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, or to taste
6 cobs of corn, cooked
3 pounds baby potatoes
1 Vidalia onion
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

In a medium-sized bowl, add the mayonnaise, the eggs, the bacon, the feta cheese, and the seasoning.

Stir well and set aside.

Slice the corn off of the cooled cobs. Gently break into smaller pieces and set aside.


Using the bacon grease from cooking the bacon, roast the potatoes. Let cool.

Place the potatoes and corn in a large bowl. Finely chop the onion and combine.

Then gently stir the mayo-egg-bacon mixture in until it’s evenly distributed.

Now you might have noticed that this isn’t the prettiest salad. I typically never ever serve or eat anything that looks like it could have been regurgitated. But this salad, as messy as it is, is my one exception.

To serve, sprinkle a generous amount of chopped cilantro over the salad.

The saltiness from the feta and bacon is wonderful with the creamy eggs and potatoes.

I served the salad with a flank steak, medium rare, and sliced. With just a minimal of seasoning.

The potato salad is spicy. If you don’t want to use the seasoning, put that on your flank steak instead!

* If you don’t own chili powder, use 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 1/1 teaspoons paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander.