Crostini Dinner

The food: mushroom and caponata crostini

Now that my two university student sons have returned to their out of town schools for the winter term, the house is calmer and quieter, I only need go grocery shopping 3 or 4 times a week instead of every day, and mealtimes are simpler and more peaceful.

Take the satisfying and filling adult dinner I made this week that consisted of two kinds of crostini, and nothing else. Making good on a promise I made to cook up some caponata at home after eating a tasty version of the dish at Sardinia Enoteca in South Beach, I starting by sautéing some celery, onions and sweet yellow peppers in a large pot.

To those vegetables, I added cubed roasted eggplant, chopped cooked artichoke hearts, black olives, capers, strained tomatoes, a handful of raisins, some herbs and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and made enough caponata to feed E and me for a week in various guises.

To balance off the virtuous healthiness of the caponata, I made some mushroom crostini to go along with, using portobello and cremini mushrooms  combined with a mellow, melty blue cheese ( I used a Quebec blue cheese called Ermite from Fromagerie L’Abbaye St. Benoit) and some Madeira wine, and finished with a sprinkling of a sweet and tart Lemon Vincotto Vinegar that my sister had given me for Christmas.

The caponata was vibrant and fresh-tasting, the mushrooms rich and earthy, and the two kinds of crostini together made a dinner just right for two grownups living in a temporarily empty nest.

Caponata

2 stalks celery, washed and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
2-3 small Japanese eggplants, trimmed and cubed
olive oil
2 c. strained tomatoes
handful black olives
1/2 c. dry red wine
2 T. capers
5-6 artichoke hearts (canned, in a jar, or cooked), chopped
1/2 c. seedless sultana raisins
1 tsp. each of dried basil and oregano
2 T. balsamic vinegar

1. Sauté celery, onion and pepper in 1-2 T. olive oil in large casserole pot until vegetables are softened.
2. Toss eggplant cubes with 1 T olive oil, roast in 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, turning once, until browned.
2. Add roasted eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, artichoke hearts, raisins, wine, vinegar and herbs to vegetables in large pot, stir to combine, and simmer 15 – 30 minutes to mingle flavours and burn off alcohol. Serve warm over toasted bread slices
(use a rustic style baguette), warm temperature as a vegetable side dish or as a pasta sauce mixed with a short pasta like fusilli, topped with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Mushroom Crostini

2 c. sliced portobello mushroom caps
2 c. sliced cremini mushrooms
2 T. olive oil
1/4 c. Madeira
4-6 oz. mellow blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 c.)
fresh thyme leaves, about 1 T.
lemon vincotto vinegar
Bread slices cut from a rustic style baguette, toasted in the oven on a rack until brown (about 5 minutes at 350 degrees)

1. Sauté mushrooms in olive oil in a skillet over high heat until browned on both sides.
2. Add Madeira and let boil up to cook mushrooms further.
3. When madeira has been reduced by half, remove pan from heat, and stir in cheese until it melts (1-2 minutes). Stir in fresh thyme leaves, serve over toasted baguette slices, drizzle small amount of lemon vincotto vinegar over top of each slice and add ground black pepper to taste.

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