Caponata (version X)

2 large, well-shaped eggplants
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 cups sweet onion, sliced fine
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 large, juicy tomatoes, peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh italian parsley, chopped fine
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup pitted calamata or gaeta olives

Slice the top quarter of one of the eggplants lengthwise. Hollow it out, leaving the eggplant whole and in good condition, with skin intact.

Cut the eggplant meat into cubes, place in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let drain for an hour.

Meanwhile, place the other eggplant over a direct flame, on top of the stove, turning it from side to side until the skin is equally blackened and it is soft inside, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pat the eggplant cubes dry with paper towels. Sauté them in olive oil over medium heat with the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add bell peppers and sauté another five minutes. Add scooped-out flesh of burnt eggplant along with the tomatoes, salt, ground pepper and remaining spices, and cook over medium flame until flavors are thoroughly blended. Sprinkle with lemon juice and parsley.

Taste and adjust flavor by adding more salt, olive oil or lemon juice. Place eggplant mixture into the intact eggplant. Garnish with olives.

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