Prep time: 90 minutes Cook time: 10 ½ hours Intermediate Yields: 1 quart
2 lbs eggplant (not Asian)
2 T plus one tsp sea salt
2 ¼ - 2 ½ cups olive oil
2 heads garlic, peeled and chopped
2 T tomato paste
1 20 oz can whole Roma tomatoes, finely chopped with juice reserved
5 celery ribs, ½” dice
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, ½” dice
1 cup large pitted green olives, ¼” chop
¼ cup capers, drained and rinsed
1/3 c red wine vinegar
¼ c sugar
½ tsp black pepper
¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
Special equipment: a deep-fat thermometer
Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes and transfer to a colander. Toss with 2 tablespoons sea salt. Let drain 1 hour.
While eggplant drains, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 4 to 5 quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté three fourths of garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes with their juice, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.
Bring 3 cups salted water to a boil in a 1 to 1 ½ quart saucepan, then cook celery until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet, then reduce heat to moderate and cook onion, bell pepper, and remaining garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add tomato sauce, eggplant, celery, olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and remaining teaspoon sea salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature, uncovered, then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.
Just before serving, stir in parsley and basil. Serve cold or at room temperature.