CAPONATA (8 servings)

This popular Sicilian dish is perfect for spring and summer picnics. Make two or three times the recipe early in the spring and keep it on hand, frozen in 2-cup containers until needed. 3 medium eggplants, skinned and cut into half-inch cubes 1 tablespoon salt 1 celery heart, thinly cut on the bias 1/2 cup olive oil 1 large onion, very coarsely chopped 2 cups drained canned Italian plum tomatoes, or 4 large ripe tomatoes 1/8 teaspoon thyme 1 bay leaf Freshly ground black pepper 6 to 8 anchovies 1/2 cup pitted black Italian olives 1/4 cup capers 2 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoons lemon juice or balsamic vinegar 1/2 cup chopped parsley Grated zest of 1 large lemon

Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and place in a colander to drain. Drop the celery into a large pot of rapidly boiling water and cook for exactly 2 minutes, then drain and cool under running cold tap water to stop the cooking.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large saute' pan and add the onion. Cook without browning until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until a soft, thick mixture forms, about 10 minutes.

While the tomatoes are cooking, heat the remaining oil in a saute' pan and brown the eggplant cubes, patted thoroughly dry, until nicely colored and just tender all the way through, about 6 minutes. Combine the cooked eggplant with the tomato and celery mixture, drained and patted dry, and the anchovies, olives, and capers. Combine the sugar and lemon juice and mix into the caponata, then stir in the parsley and lemon.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. JAMES BEARD'S WHOLE GRAIN YOGURT BREAD WITH WALNUTS (Makes 2 loaves)

This bread freezes extremely well. 1 cup boiling water 1 cup rolled oats 1 cup cracked wheat 2 tablespoons active dry yeast 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1/2 cup warm water 1 cup yogurt 2 tablespoons polyunsaturated oil plus extra for bowl and pans About 2 3/4 cups bread flour 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Pour boiling water over the oats and cracked wheat and set aside. Combine the yeast and brown sugar with the warm water and stir to dissolve.

When the oats mixture has cooled to just slightly warm, combine it with the yeast mixture, yogurt, oil, 2 cups flour and walnuts. Stir well to form a sticky dough, then knead in enough additional flour until dough is soft and smooth and no longer sticks to the work surface when kneaded. Knead for about 5 minutes until springy and resilient, then place in a lightly greased bowl, flip and press down so that both sides of the dough are lightly coated in oil, then cover with plastic film and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down, shape into 2 loaves, and place in greased 9-inch loaf pans. Let rise until doubled in size, then bake at 400 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool completely before freezing. VANILLA COOKIES (Makes 4 dozen cookies)

These crisply textured drop cookies take only about 20 minutes to prepare, including the baking if you work quickly, and can be kept frozen for months until needed for a picnic or instant dessert with just some fresh fruit. 2 1/2 cups flour 8 tablespoons unsalted butter plus extra for sheets 1/2 cup vegetable shortening 3/4 cup sugar 2 eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift the flour.

Cream the butter and shortening together until very light and fluffy in texture, then gradually add the sugar and beat until well-combined, about 2 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until well mixed.

Add the sifted flour, mixing slowly until thoroughly combined.

Drop rounded teaspoons of the cookie batter onto two greased baking sheets and bake at 375 degrees until cookies are lightly browned around the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Cool on a rack, then freeze if