serves 6 - 8
3 medium eggplants
4 celery stalks plus the tender leaves from the interior
2 cups tomatoes, coarsely chopped
fresh hot red pepper
basil if you have it, whole leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
handful of raisins or currants (leave them to plump in hot water for 5-10 minutes)
handful of capers, under salt, salt shaken off
15 or so large green olives
1/4 cup mead vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
extra virgin olive oil
small handful of chopped bitter chocolate
big handful chopped toasted almonds
grated orange zest
Peel the eggplant if you like in stripes, or leave the skin on and cut into (roughly 1 inch) cubes. Leave the eggplant in a colander sprinkled with very coarse salt for a couple of hours.
Roughly chop the onion, carrot, celery, celery leaves and tomatoes. Pit and roughly chop the olives.
In a frying pan with olive oil, sauté the onion, carrot, celery and celery leaves with the hot pepper until the carrots and celery have softened.
Add the tomatoes, cinnamon and basil if you have it and let it bubble over lively heat to reduce the tomatoes. Add the olives, capers, raisins, pine nuts and salt to taste. Continue cooking until the juice from the tomatoes has reduced but there is till some liquid left in the pan.
Make a well in the center of the pan and add the vinegar and honey stirring them together to dissolve the honey. Mix it all together and let it cook until the acrid aroma of the vinegar has boiled off but there is still some liquid in the pan.
Meanwhile, rinse the salt off the eggplant and dry it well by pressing it between two dish towels. In a separate pan fry the eggplant with just enough olive oil until it is soft and cooked through, even letting it brown a bit here and there. The eggplant will absorb the olive oil like a sponge releasing the oil back into the pan when it nears doneness When the eggplant is done let it rest on paper towels to remove any excess olive oil.
Stir the eggplant into the vegetable mixture. Serve barely warm, at room temperature or cold with some toasted almonds on top, a bit of coarsely grated chocolate from Modica (Bonajuto) and/or a sprinkling of grated orange zest.