Sicilian Caponata

¾ cup Extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 pounds of eggplant
Coarse salt
3 inner stalks celery
4 bell peppers (multi-color)
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 heaping Tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup warm water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened chocolate
3 Tablespoons capers
3 Tablespoons currants

3 Tablespoons green olives, sliced
3 Tablespoons pine nuts or almond slivers Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme

Optional: Bitter sweet chocolate (preferably from Monica) for garnishing

Cooking directions:

1.  Clean eggplant, cutting off stem.  Cut into one-inch cubes.  
2.  To allow the eggplant’s bitterness to be released, place cubes into a colander (in the sink) and sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Put a plate on top of the eggplant and add a weight, such as a heavy can of tomatoes.  Let stand for 30 minutes.
3.  Meanwhile, cut celery into 1 ½ inch pieces and boil in water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
4.  Clean peppers and slice into 1 ½ pieces and set aside.
5.  Rinse eggplant under running water to remove salt, then carefully dry with paper towels. Set aside.
6.  In a large skillet add 1/4 cup olive oil and heat over medium flame. Add eggplant cubes and sauté for 5 minutes.  (You may need to do this is several batches adding more olive oil, if needed). Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
7.  Add 1/4 cup olive oil and sauté onions for 5 minutes and then, garlic for another two minutes.
8.  Add peppers and sauté for 5 minutes.
9.  Add eggplant and celery to skillet and mix with other vegetables.
10.  Combine the sugar with the vinegar and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.
11.  Dilute tomato paste in 1/2 cup water. Set aside.
12.  Add vinegar and sugar mixture as well as tomato paste to vegetables and mix thoroughly.
13.  Add cinnamon and cocoa powder to vegetables and mix thoroughly.
14.  Add capers, currants, pine nuts and thyme and stir together.
15. Season with salt and pepper and cook 10 minutes more or until all the liquid has absorbed.
16.  Transfer to a serving dish then garnish with grated chocolate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves:  8-10

Wine recommendation:   Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, Dolcetto or Rosé of Sangiovese