Braised Eggplant with Brandywine Tomatoes

6 small Italian eggplants
2 medium onions, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick wedges
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
5 large Brandywine tomatoes or other beefsteak tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup organic parsley, chopped
1/3 cup basil, chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 2 teaspoons (divided)
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Halve eggplants lengthwise and score flesh 1/2-inch deep in cross-hatch pattern to make 1-inch squares (do not cut through skin). Arrange eggplant halves, cut sides up, in large roasting pan and season with salt.

Cook onions in 3 tablespoons oil in large non-stick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in tomatoes, parsley, basil, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons sugar and salt.

Divide topping among eggplant halves, mounding in centers. Stir together water, remaining 1/4 cup oil, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until sugar is dissolved, then add to roasting pan. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake in middle of oven, basting eggplants every 15 minutes with cooking liquid, 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until eggplants are tender (they will collapse and flatten slightly) and cooking liquid is reduced and beginning to caramelize, about 40 minutes more. Serve hot or at room temperature, drizzled with pan juices.

Note: Braised eggplant may be made 1 day ahead, then cooled completely before being chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

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