Blanketed Eggplant

8 small japanese eggplants, peeled
16 large fresh mint leaves
4 large garlic cloves 2 slivered, 2 flattened
2 cups olive oil (for deep frying)
2 pounds tomatoes
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1-1/2 tablespoons drained capers

Place eggplants on double thickness of paper towels. Salt generously. Let stand 1 hour. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut 2 deep incisions in each eggplant. Using tip of knife, push 1 mint leaf and 1 garlic sliver into each incision.

Pour 2 cups oil into heavy medium saucepan and heat to 375°F. Add eggplants in batches and fry until deep golden brown, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes. Transfer eggplants to paper towels and drain.

Blanch tomatoes in pot of boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain. Peel tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in half; squeeze out seeds. Chop tomatoes; set aside.

Heat 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in large pot over high heat. Add 2 flattened garlic cloves ; sauté until light brown, about 3 minutes. Discard garlic. Add onion; sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until reduced to 3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Mix capers and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil into sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat. Add eggplants. Simmer 5 minutes, spooning sauce over eggplants occasionally. Spoon sauce onto platter. Top with eggplants.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.



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