Also, the two plants are now producing a whole bunch of little eggplants, and there are cherry tomatoes, a single plum tomato, and a jalapeño as well. So I guess I really am Farmer Green Jeans.
1 Ichiban (Japanese) eggplant - about 5 oz., diced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion, minced
1/2 celery stalk, minced
1/4 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1-10 oz. can mild Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon small capers, drained
red pepper flakes, to taste
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped basil (4 large leaves)
Toss the diced eggplant with about 2 teaspoons salt and put into a bowl. Let this sit for 1 hour. Drain the eggplant, rinse with fresh water and pat dry with paper towels.
Wipe the pan with a paper towel, turn the heat to high and add the remaining olive oil. Let this heat until the oil is nearly smoking. Add the eggplant and spread it out in as thin a layer as you can in the skillet. Let this sizzle for 1-2 minutes before stirring, then let it sit for a full minute before stirring again. Cook like this for 5-6 minutes.
Add the onion-celery mixture, the tomatoes, olives, capers and red pepper flakes. Stir well. Add the vinegar, sugar and tomato paste and stir once more. Cook, stirring occasionally until eggplant is very soft, about 8 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Mix in the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Caponata can be refrigerated, covered, up to 5 days.