Dinner @ 226 - Spicy Eggplant and Tomato "Sauce"

I cook every night. No, people, I'm not bragging. I am telling you that I am an absolute wealth of failed and ridiculously awesome recipes. There are hundreds, most of which I have photographed with intent to post. Yes, maybe months have passed since we gave our thumbs up but that is in no way a reflection of how good the recipe is. Believe me, if Jason, the boy, the girl and I liked it enough to break out the old Nikon, realize that it is out of batteries, locate the charger which has been found anywhere from the Cat Bed to the compost bucket, charge the battery while we eat our first few bites, return to the charger only to discover it was plugged in to an outlet that doesn't work, change the outlet, force everyone to stop eating by having a mid-dinner dance party, return to the charger yet again, insert battery, and finally, take pictures while my poor family begs me for "just one more bite"...we liked it. And you deserve to know about it.

I love eggplant, it's true. I love it in Indian food, on pizzas, marinated and grilled, in pasta, as a spread or sauce. Unfortunately, eggplant season ended almost six months ago and we are still three months away from seeing any in our gardens or at the market. I try to buy seasonal produce, but sometimes I see something that I have to have and all rules are thrown out the 1992 Volvo window, as the item rides home with me. This time, it was eggplant. They were shiny and dark purple, and flawless. Wrinkle-less eggplant in February? Yes please. The stems were even green. How these perfect aubergines (as the British call them) make it all the way from California to Ohio with green stems, I do not know. But, I'm glad they made the trip.

I bought them because I had seen a tomato and eggplant pasta sauce on Lidia's Italy, a fantastic PBS cooking show. As I searched the interwebs for the recipe, I stumbled upon this one and took a new direction. Oh, and this direction was good. Like, way good.

No, i'm not an eggplant. But, i have/had cute hair.

The sauce recipe I was after was a pureed sauce, which still sounds delightful. But, the texture of this sauce was so appealing. It was almost meaty with big chunks of firm eggplant and nuggets of savory olive. I suppose the only thing about catching up on all these dishes that remain in my photo folder, is that I want to make it again. Tonight.

Spicy Eggplant Tomato Sauce via LunaCafe.com

I served it with a huge green salad, with a lemon garlic vinaigrette and some soft polenta. This is my standby recipe to create decadent, creamy polenta; which everyone in this family loves.

Though, I didn't try it, I'm certain that this sauce would freeze well.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (as always, adjust to taste)

20 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
20 green olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, soaked to soften, chopped*
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 big eggplant, or 2 smalled ones, stemmed and diced (I did 1/2 inch chunks)
2 bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced (I prefer red, yellow or orange)

1 28 oz. cans of whole tomatoes, crushed through your fingers as you add them to the pot**(same process as this recipe)
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped or torn
1 tablespoon fresh basil, torn

fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1.In a large skillet, heat the oil.
2.Add, and then slowly sauté the onions with the dried basil, dried oregano, and crushed red pepper until softened but not brown, about 20 minutes.
3.Stir in the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic, and sauté for a few minutes more to meld the flavors.
4.Add bell peppers and eggplant, and stir to coat with oil. Sauté briefly, about 2 minutes.
5.Add tomatoes, red wine, vegetable broth, and tomato paste. Simmer very slowly for about 40-60 minutes, adding a little more stock if the sauce becomes too thick.
6.Add fresh oregano and basil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
7.Serve hot over creamy polenta and topped with Parmesan cheese.
Makes 2 quarts sauce.

*I left out the sundried tomatoes, simply because we didn't have any and though delicious, they were not missed.
**In the summer, this recipe would be fantastic with (about 2 pounds, peeled, seeded and chopped) fresh tomatoes. Until then, canned, eh.

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