1/3 cup canola oil, more or less
1 pound eggplant, preferably a small variety, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Fine sea salt
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small cinnamon stick
2 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat half of the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add one-third of the eggplant and fry until dark brown on both sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to a paper towel-lined plate, blot it well, and cover with more paper towels. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, adding the rest of the canola oil as needed. Season the fried eggplant with a little salt.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the skillet and add the onion. Cook over medium-high heat until darkened around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the eggplant, tomatoes, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir gently, turning the vegetables over to combine. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook until the eggplant is soft and the mixture is liquidy, about 20 minutes. Uncover the pan, and don't stir, but shake the pan to shift things around. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the thick liquid clings to the vegetables, about 15 minutes.
Squeeze the lemon juice into the pan and shake the pan softly to incorporate. Turn the vegetables out into a shallow bowl, remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, and serve warm or at room temperature, as a side dish or an appetizer with bread or pita.
Real cinnamon bark-- soft-stick cinnamon, not cinnamon oil-soaked sticks--can be found at Penzeys Spices, a store with locations across the United States, or online at www.penzeys.com.
A good way to peel just one tomato: Stick a fork in the center of the tomato and hold it over a gas flame, rotating it until the skin pops.
From The New Midwestern Table, Clarkson Potter, published September, 2013.
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