White wine vinegar (Recipe: caponata)
In a pantry filled with olive oils from Italy, Spain, California and Trader Joe's, there's bound to be a vinegar or two. Or more. Welcome to Vinegar Week, Day 1. Updated October 2011.
Before Marc Antony fell on his sword, he fell in love with Cleopatra, and she, though married to Caesar at the time, loved him right back.
One night, Cleopatra prepared a very over-the-top meal for Antony, who should have been impressed, but instead had the bad manners to comment on the extravagance. Piqued, Cleopatra wagered that she could consume a fortune in one meal. She then removed one of the very large pearls in her earrings and threw it into a cup of vinegar. The vinegar dissolved the pearl, and she drank it.
I like my vinegar a bit more moderate: strong enough to balance the effects of a rich olive oil, but mild enough not to dissolve my jewelry.
According to The Vinegar Institute,
vinegar is made by two distinct biological processes, both the result of the action of harmless microorganisms (yeast and “Acetobacter”) that turn sugars (carbohydrates) into acetic acid. The first process is called alcoholic fermentation and occurs when yeasts change natural sugars to alcohol under controlled conditions. In the second process, a group of bacteria (called “Acetobacter”) converts the alcohol portion to acid. This is the acetic, or acid fermentation, that forms vinegar. Proper bacteria cultures are important; timing is important; and fermentation should be carefully controlled.
Adapted from Diane Seed's Top 100 Mediterranean Dishes, this flavorful sweet-sour Sicilian condiment can be served as a dip with pita triangles, or a topping to grilled swordfish or salmon. Serves 6.
2 lb eggplant (any variety)
4 oz extra virgin olive oil
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
14 oz canned Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
10 large green or black olives, pits removed, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and dried
5 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar, or to taste
Black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2-3 tsp roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
Dice the eggplant and place the cubes in a colander. Sprinkle with salt, and set aside for an hour.
Heat half of the oil in a large sauté pan, and cook the celery for approximately 15 minutes over low heat before adding the onion. When the onion is soft and beginning to change color, remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon, and add the remaining oil to the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the eggplant. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers, and the vinegar, sugar, and a bit of pepper. Return celery and onions to the pan. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.
While the caponata is simmering, toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes, until just lightly browned. When the caponata has thickened, stir in the pine nuts and basil. Remove pan from heat. Allow to cool, and serve cold or at room temperature.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Grilled chicken with sage, rosemary, and garlic dried herb rub, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Chipotle bacon deviled eggs, from Pinch My Salt
Swabian potato salad, from Andrea Meyers
Pasta with tuna and capers in white wine sauce, from Simply Recipes
Roasted peppers with capers and mozzarella, from Smitten Kitchen