Caponata (version IX)

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1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 large eggplant stem removed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 cup raw zucchini, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
14-1/2 ounces premium diced tomatoes in puree
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup capers
2 tablespoons caper juice
1/4 cup marinated black olives (recipe follows)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt, to taste
Marinated Black Olives
1 pound black greek olives
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 slice lemon

The Olives:
Mix all ingredients and refrigerate in a large jar for up to several months.   Serve at room temperature.

The Caponata:
In a 3-quart saucepan over low heat, cook the onion in oil until it is translucent (about 6 - 8 minutes). Add carrot and eggplant, and steam, covered, for 6 - 8 minutes. Add zucchini, garlic, and herbs, and simmer uncovered for 10 more minutes, tossing to blend flavors. Add tomatoes and wine, and simmer until all the vegetables are completely cooked (10 - 15 minutes). Add the other ingredients, mixing thoroughly, and simmer for 15 - 20 more minutes to blend flavors and thicken the stew.

Transfer to a nonreactive bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let it cool to room temperature. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. It should be flavorful, slightly tart, and have just a tiny bite from the red pepper. Refrigerate, tightly covered, until ready to serve. It will last a week refrigerated if there is very little air between the sauce and its lid.

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