August 4, 2008

The Dog Days

A simple dinner tonight of pasta caponata and a smoothie, that I forgot to photograph. So here are some pictures of my dog Spencer instead; more on him below.

I first made caponata last week, and munched into it atop toasted whole wheat bread spread with goat cheese, inspired by lunch I had a while ago at Landmarc in the Time Warner Center. Caponata is a Sicilian dish of eggplants, peppers, and/or tomatoes and other veggies, diced and cooked together until soft and mushy, spiced with olives and capers. However, olives and capers aren't local or budget friendly, so I left them out, and didn't find my caponata lacking at all. Instead I spiced it up with lemon, crushed red pepper, and red wine vinegar, which were already handy in my pantry.

Tonight I had tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers from the farmers market waiting patiently in the fridge to become caponata again. But I didn't have enough bread to serve it on, so I decided it would work just as well with pasta. And it did, though I found myself craving a little sausage in there too. Most recipes for caponata call for you to roast the eggplant first, but in New York City's oppressive summer heat, I grilled the eggplant, and it was a much quicker way to tenderize rounds of slightly-chared and oiled eggplant.

For dessert I made a peach and nectarine smoothie with Ronnybrook yogurt. I don't like to eat fruit or yogurt on its own, but I do like them in smoothies and baked goods. So I decided I would buy the ingredients at the farmers market to make smoothies, in a concerted effort to be healthier. Since I'm not a big fan of peach flavor, I also threw in the last of some frozen strawberries that had been hanging around in my fridge for, oh at least six months, to brighten the flavor - but if you like peach, then plain ice cubes will do just fine for cooling down your drink.

And as for the dog days...does anyone have advice for remedying a sweet-turned-vicious dog? We adopted our dog from the shelter and accepted his growling nature toward other dogs as a hazard of his troubled past. Because he's just so darned cute, and, though he doesn't like other dogs, he loves people and is a bit of a whore with seeking out petting from other people on the street.

Until suddenly after two years, for the past two weeks straight he has started growling and trying to bite random people. For no apparent reason. The people he targets run the gamut of teenagers, old ladies, construction workers, and guys just sitting on their stoop. It's scary, and I don't know what to do. And it's so bizarre! It's bad enough that I have to walk this guy every day when I could be getting a few more minutes of precious sleep or gallavanting about town instead of coming straight home after work, that we leave the energy guzzling AC on during the day for him (at 75-77 degrees), and that he gets a full third of the bed at night! And now he's turned into a devil dog! But then he's just so darned cute and lovable with us, and you have to forgive him/forget all his sins...

Grilled Eggplant Caponata
olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
3 green peppers
3 tomatoes
1 large or 2 small eggplants
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt
pepper

Dice onion and mince garlic and sautee in olive oil over low heat. Dice peppers and then tomatoes and add to pan. Let cook over low heat, with the tomato juices simmering away slightly.

Meanwhile, slice eggplant into thin rounds, brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill over medium heat, about 4 minutes on each side, until eggplant is tender with browned grill marks. Remove from grill. After eggplant has cooled a few minutes, dice eggplant and add to the pan, along with the remaining ingredients. Continue to sautee another 5-10 minutes, until vegetable mixture is evenly softened and flavored.

Serving suggestions:
Toast slices of bread, top with goat cheese or mozzerella, and then top with caponata.
Let caponata cool in the fridge, and then eat with pita chips on a hot summer day.
Make 4 servings of pasta, toss pasta with caponata along with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/3 cup grated parmesan for caponata pasta.
As an accompaniment to fish or chicken.

Peach and Nectarine Smoothie
1 small peach
1 small nectarine
2/3 cup yogurt
1 1/2 tsp honey
2 frozen strawberries or ice cubes

Wash and roughly chop peach and nectarine. Add yogurt and honey to blender, followed by the fruit and frozen strawberries or ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Makes one whopping glass or two small glasses.

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