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Fig & Fennel Caponata

The Challenge:

Soooo, since we've fallen behind (Y'all missed us? We missed you, too.) [Lea: Tell me about it, the website didn't even have me logged in anymore!], we're going to combine and give you 3 recipes this week - Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Sausage, Ultimate Pumpkin Pie with Rum Whipped Cream, and this one, Fig & Fennel Caponata, which can be found on p. 75 of Foolproof.


Mary's Take:

Caponata, since you're wondering, is a sweet and sour vegan appetizer [Lea: Sounds appetizing, doesn't it?] that hails from Sicily. Think a bold ratatouille. A pungent tourlou-tourlou (for our Greek friends). It's traditionally made with eggplant, capers, olives, and vinegar. Ina's version substitutes fennel and fig for the eggplant, I imagine to give an even more interesting combination of flavors. It's used here as a topping for toasted baguette, but I've read people like it alongside grilled swordfish or other late-summer grilled meats.

(Pay no attention to that brownish orange...it was part of my Imperfect Foods delivery...see why I canceled? That zest looks dirty. [Lea: Seriously. I would never have used that.])


Because this recipe called for a specific variety of dried fig, the Calmyrna, I hit our local higher-end grocery store, but, alas, it was not to be. I had to settle for the Conadria variety (sigh). Don't think I wasn't stopped in the middle of the store Googling what kind Nutra-Figs were.


I also had to find Cerignola olives. Never heard of them, you? [Lea: Guess.] And I'm an olive lover. Especially Kalamatas, of course. Luckily, Heinen's had one container of Cerignolas in their currently-defunct olive bar area...I almost missed them. It gives me a little anxiety when I want to find The. Exact. ingredient and can't. (Doesn't bother Lea, she just skips the ingredient (or the recipe). Note to self, be more like Lea. [Lea: Agreed! Everyone should be more like me!]) Is there a store that just always has everything needed? I want to live near it.

Fennel is an anise-flavored [Lea: This will come as no surprise to anyone, but I hate that flavor.] vegetable that mellows and sweetens when cooked. I especially like it in Ina's Loin of Pork with Fennel, which may have been the first time I'd ever made a recipe with it. Ever since, I've looked forward to recipes containing it.


For this caponata, though, first, sauté the onions and fennel, then add the rest of the ingredients - mainly olives, capers, garlic, tomato, vinegar, and brown sugar - finishing with a little orange juice and parsley. More cooking to thicken the mixture, and voilà! Caponata.

I didn't get back to the store to have a fresh baguette to toast, so I served it with naan. Actually, "served it" is a little lie. We didn't have anything going on that weekend, so I made it for John and me to have out on the deck with a glass of wine while we enjoyed another great fall afternoon. (Feel free to leave a comment if you'd like to become one of my taste-testers. We always have more than we can eat.) [Lea: Um, hello?! This is what I wanted in the first place! I'll even clean up after - I bet your other guests wouldn't!]


The Results:

I hate to admit it, but my palette isn't sophisticated enough for this mashing of flavors. Sweet, salty, sour, citrus-y...they don't feel like a diverse party in my mouth, they just feel like they don't go together. There are plenty of online reviewers who loved this recipe..."it was the hit of the party" or "our friends raved about it all evening", so what do I know?

And the next day, I didn't like it any better. We had the family over for Sunday dinner and most tasted it once and didn't go back to it [Lea: I was one of those people, One and done.]. John even thought he'd give it a second try (what a guy!) but it didn't improve his appreciation for it. I bet toasted baguette would offset the flavors better than the limp naan did, so if I ever venture to try again, I'll be sure to do that.


Or, more likely, I'll skip it altogether. [Lea: Let's go with that one.]


Lea's Take:

Well, let's see... what could I say that would be better than Mary's explanation? Nothing!


Okay, okay, here's what I really think. I love this cooking challenge, really I do. And I love Ina. Her recipes are easy to follow and I think we've had some good successes, making new dishes that the family will eat and (at least one person) enjoy.


However, it's the dishes like this that make me question The Challenge. See, because as much as I want to expand the palette of my children, it's just not working. The last time I made something outside of their comfort zone, Mr. Picky Pants wouldn't even look at it. So, it's getting frustrating. And, as you'll read in the Orecchiette post, I am making Mr. Good Eater sick.


Nevertheless, I will soldier on. Rome wasn't made in a day and all that.


(Wow, how about me, sounding like a real buzzkill?) [Mary: Honestly.]



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erin_oshea17
29. Okt. 2020

I’d be a taster! And I even had baguettes and no idea what to do with them! They just looked tasty when I went to Costco last Friday ☺️

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