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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Cool Dinner for a Hot Night

I know I'm like a broken record, but it's been hot and when it's hot, I try to avoid turning on the oven.

Here's the thing.  My house is over 100 years old, and while it is fully air-conditioned (obviously added years after it was built),  not all of the rooms benefit equally from said central air-conditioning.  And heating for that matter.  Kate's room, for example, is coldest in the winter and warmest in the summer.  Charlie's room, which is right next to Kate's, is the complete opposite.  Go figure.

The kitchen seems to be in an ecosystem all its own, because the rest of the first floor bears no similarity in temperature.  Like Kate's room on the second floor, the kitchen is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  This problem is obviously exacerbated in the warm months by using the appliances, most specifically the oven.  Turning on the oven is pretty much a direct ticket to hell, so obviously I try to limit my oven use to early mornings and after the sun goes down.

Needless to say, being of a certain age, I have absolutely no need to add to my already somewhat fickle body temperature issues.  In an effort to keep things a little cooler, I have taken to making dinners that rely on anything but the oven.  In fact, I would chop 1,000 vegetables into 10,000 tiny little pieces if the net result is that I can avoid turning on the oven.

The other day Ina Garten made caponata on her Barefoot Contessa show.  She served it with lovely little pita chips.  It was very appealing, but did not a dinner make.  Still, I wanted to make the caponata.  We are not really dip people, so I decided to make the caponata and serve it as a sauce for grilled swordfish.  I grilled the swordfish and let it come to room temperature and then served the whole platter the same way.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it makes quite a bit of the caponata, and the flavors develop as it sits in the frig.  So, you can serve this lovely cold dinner and still have caponata left over to serve another day with cocktails, al fresco, of course.

Recipe:  Grilled Swordfish featuring Ina Garten's Caponata

For the caponata:


1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
Good olive oil
4 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
3 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Toasted pita triangles, for serving

For the swordfish:

Swordfish steaks
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Place the whole eggplant on the pan, prick with a fork in several places, and rub with olive oil. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a knife. Set aside to cool. Halve the eggplant, peel, and discard the skin. Place the eggplant, peppers, and olives in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped. Pour into a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onion is lightly browned. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, and add to the eggplant mixture. Add the parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, vinegar, salt, and pepper and mix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Prepare a grill pan or a barbecue.

Drizzle the swordfish steaks with olive oil and then season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook to desired doneness.

Spread caponata on a serving platter.  Place the swordfish on top and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Serve at room temperature.

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