Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Little Italian

The closest I've come to eating at Mozza (the Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich-owned Los Angeles restaurant and pizzeria) was an almost-made reservation four or five years ago, not long after they opened.  I remember my ex telling me that the earliest reservation available was an 11pm opening, and that was the last I heard of it.  I don't think the ex was interested in the late hour, so it never came to fruition.

I've driven by countless times as the restaurants sit conveniently near the corner of Melrose and Highland.  Someday I'd still like to go.  I don't think I've once heard anything bad about it, but I'll have to wait until the level of disposable income I have increases a hundred-fold.

So in the meantime, I'll have to bring a little bit of Mozza my way via the library.  Once again I was perusing the cooking section at my local branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, and spotted The Mozza Cookbook by Nancy Silverton, Matt Molina, and Carolynn Carreno.  With all the times I've looked at those shelves, I don't know how I missed it.  I almost didn't check it out because I have three or four other cookbooks checked out, but I thought, 'what the hell?....what's one more?'

I've got a few recipes flagged to try before the book needs to be returned and there is a good chance it will also have to be a purchase at some time in the future.  Initially,  I flipped through the cookbook and saw a few recipes that looked interesting, then a night came when I settled in and starting flipping through the 'Dolci' section.  That's what sold me.  I have both the Toasted Coconut and Toasted Walnut Biscotti recipes earmarked and can't wait to give the Rosemary Olive Oil cake a try.  Oh...and I think the Olive Oil Gelato they serve at Mozza is justification enough for me to get myself a seat there.

The first recipe I made from the book wasn't dessert though.  It was the Eggplant Caponata.  I had two eggplants that needed to be used in something and realizing that I had everything I needed (or suitable substitutions), the caponata called to me.    It can be a part of an antipasti plate or as a chunky sauce with pasta.  Make some fresh ricotta and when you make crostini with the cheese and caponata you will thank me.

Eggplant Caponata
(Adapted from The Mozza Cookbook by Nancy Silverton)
Makes about 4 cups

5 cups eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp raisins (or currants)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 oz. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
1/2 tsp sugar

In a bowl, toss the eggplant with the salt and set aside.  Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and when the oil is near smoking, add the eggplant.  Let the eggplant cook for about 2 minutes without stirring.  The eggplant will begin to brown and cook down.  After a couple of minutes, stir the eggplant, add a couple more tablespoons of the olive oil and continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes.  Add any remaining olive oil and cook the eggplant until it is all browned.

Once browned, remove the eggplant with a slotted spatula and place on a plate.  Lower the heat and add the onion.  Stir constantly to cook the onion, until translucent, and de-glaze the pan, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, raisins, and red pepper flakes and cook for a minute or two.  Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, thyme, and sugar.  Stir to combine and add the eggplant back into the pan.  Mix well and cover, allowing to cook for five minutes.  Remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes, allowing the remaining liquid to cook down.

You can eat the caponata warm or let it come to room temperature.  Either way, it's delicious.

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