Grilled Vegetable Caponata

2 long, slender eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 fresh, ripe medium-size tomatoes
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered (leave root ends on)
2 ribs celery, trimmed
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium green bell pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped italian (flat-leaf) parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons pitted green or black olives, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Prepare grill for direct grilling over high heat. Make 8 slits in each eggplant with the tip of a knife and insert a half clove of garlic in each slit. Lightly brush eggplants, tomatoes, onions, celery and bell peppers with about 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Arrange vegetables on hot grill rack. Grill the vegetables, turning as necessary, until charred; eggplants should be soft and skin on tomatoes, eggplants and peppers should be split. It should take about 8 to 12 minutes for the tomatoes, 10 to 15 minutes for the onions, celery and peppers and about 15 to 20 minutes for the eggplants. As each vegetable gets done, remove it to a platter or cutting board to cool.

Scrape and peel the skin off the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Coarsely chop eggplants, including any garlic that stays in the flesh and transfer to a large serving bowl. Remove stem and seeds from peppers and thinly slice. Core tomatoes, cut in half and squeeze out seeds, then chop. Remove root ends from onions and thinly slice. Thinly slice celery. Add all vegetables to the serving bowl as you finish with them.

Stir in 3 tablespoons oil, the parsley, pine nuts, capers, olives, 2 tablespoons vinegar, cocoa powder and salt and pepper. Toss well to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and vinegar if necessary. Caponata should be highly seasoned. Serve at room temperature.

Caponata will keep for a week in the refrigerator; taste and reseason if necessary before serving.

Makes 8 appetizer or 6 side-dish servings.



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