I know it sounds a bit gloomy to pop ‘summer’s end’ into the title, but it does seem appropriate. September is nigh, and unless you are of a southern hemisphere persuasion, autumn is here in all but name.
I may be a bit of a weirdo but I quite like autumn. I like its colours, textures and tastes: bumpy, rough apples with their creamy sweet-sharp flesh; prickly brambles, daring you to pluck their dark treasures; kale – proud and tall – emerald leaves fanned like peacocks. Even the air is different – better – tinged as it is with illicit bonfires and hints of vegetal decay. All seasons have their plus points: who can’t say that spring, with its shyly peeking plants and lengthening days isn’t welcome? But, at least here in the UK, early autumn is the best of all seasons – fresh food in abundance, dry warm-ish days and nights finally cool enough to sleep through. Unless you wake up with loads of crazy ideas that is.
At this time of year my mind runs riot with ideas for all of the produce that is now saturating the markets and stores. And of course, all of you allotmenteers and farmers are working furiously to harvest your crops before they return to the ground. There is just so much choice that I feel almost dizzy with thoughts and inspiration. Although it doesn’t take much to make me dizzy these days, to be honest. Turning my head too quickly has the same effect.
Anyway, it is not uncommon for me to sit up in the middle of the night and jot down ideas about what I might make in the kitchen. I don’t always get around to realising these ideas – they may be rubbish in the cold light of day, or I haven’t the time – but the other day I made one of my nocturnal imaginings. Once made, I found out the caponata pizza idea is not original. Why I thought using caponata as a pizza topping might have the faintest prospect of being original, I do not know. But who cares, it is quite good. And caponata is a colourful and nutritious way of using late summer produce. I have a slower-cooked recipe for it that you might like to try, but I have included a somewhat quicker version for topping today’s pizza.
And another good thing about autumn? The end of bathing suit weather! Woo hoo! *hauls out oversized sweaters from under the bed*
What is YOUR favourite thing about autumn?
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Love Illumination – Franz Ferdinand are back!!! Retro-poptastic. Can’t believe Alex Kapranos is 41.
This is what I like to make when we have leftover caponata – either from one of my summer nutrition workshops, or when I make it for my family. If for some reason you haven’t any leftover caponata (!), I give you a quicker and less-voluminous version of my traditional, slower-cooked one. My original caponata recipe is a bit lower-fat as the eggplant is steamed.
Feel free to add any other likely summer vegetables to the caponata that seem compatible – summer squash springs to mind (some fresh squash tops the pizza). And of course it is up to you whether you make or buy your pizza crust. But a hint: this will be even better if you pre-bake the crust and then dollop on warm or room temperature toppings for a brief spell in a hot oven. Some good brands of pizza bases come ready-baked.
Makes two personal sized pizzas or one family pizza
2 heaped cups caponata – approximate (see below)
1 small summer/yellow squash, thinly sliced
¼ pack of halloumi cheese, thinly sliced OR mozzarella
Fresh oregano, chopped
2 baked pizza crusts (your own, mine or bought)
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
2. For each pizza base spread over the caponata and top with slices of halloumi and summer squash. I took pieces of squash and curled them around by finger and gently wedged them into the caponata, but I was just playing. You do what you like.
3. Using the back of a baking sheet, or cake lifter, slide the pizzas into the oven, directly onto the racks. Bake for approximately 8 minutes, or until the caponata and cheese are bubbling. Drizzle the olive oil around the edge of the crust and lightly over the pizza; sprinkle over the oregano. Serve with a green salad.
This will make a little more than you need. Use extras as a bruschetta topping, in a baked potato, or even with an omelette. Mix in some cooked beans or lentils if you want more protein. This recipe is easily doubled.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small eggplant/aubergine, diced
10 stoned green olives, halved
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp capers in vinegar
2 tsp red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch of muscovado or dark brown sugar
1 x 400g (14 oz) can*, Tetra pack or jar of chopped tomatoes, drained but save liquid OR equivalent whole tomatoes
A handful of cherry/grape tomatoes – optional
1 tbsp fresh oregano or basil – chopped
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the celery and sauté for five minutes; add the onion and garlic and sauté a further five minutes. Add the remaining ingredients – except the oregano – and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in some of the tomato liquid if you feel it needs it, but you want this quite thick for a topping pizza. You could even stir in some ketchup. Stir in the chopped oregano. Taste and adjust the seasoning, perhaps adding more sugar, or pepper.
2. Let the caponata cool for a few minutes before using as a pizza topping. Or serve warm with polenta, bruschetta bread, baked potato or with pasta.
* BPA-free cans, if you can get them; click on the link for a balanced opinion
Other pizzas on food to glow: