The story behind this dish is that when it was fed to a Muslim Cleric for the first time he swooned either from the sheer pleasure of the dish or from the amount of costly olive oil used. The dish was very very very good but not quite swoon worthy. Maybe if you're a cleric who doesn't eat well.
Anyway I cut the recipe in half. The dish is served at room tempreature as an appetizer but I had it for dinner with a salad and bread. One serving is one eggplant. I really had to restrain myself from eating two. Leftovers need to be brought to room temperature.
The Imam Fainted- Imam Bayildi From The Greatest Dishes by Anya Von Bremzen
6 Slender Japanese eggplants about 7 inches long
4 medium ripe tomatoes
2/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
3 medium white onions halved and sliced
12 large garlic cloves,peeled and chopped
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 heaping tsp sugar
1/3 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 tbs lightly toasted pine nuts
Using a vegetable peeler slice off strips of eggplant skin in one inch intervals for a "striped" effect. Pierce in several places with a small knife. Soak completely submerged in a bowl of water with 1 tbs salt. Place a plate on top of the eggplant to weigh them down. Soak for 30 minutes. Remove, squeeze water out of eggplants and pat dry with a paper towel.
Preheat oven to 350
Halve and seed 2 of the tomatoes and grate on the large holes of a box grater. Discard the skins. Seed and dice the other 2 tomatoes.
Heat 3 tbs of the oil in a large shallow ovenproof casserole or dutch oven. Sautee the onions over medium low heat until softened (about 10 minutes). Stir in the garlic and tomatoes both grated and diced and arrange the eggplants among the onions so they touch the bottom of the pan. Pour in the rest of the olive oil. Cover and cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes urning the eggplants once.
Mix the water and sugar and pour over the eggplants. Salt to taste and place the pot, covered, in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes turning the eggplants every 10 minutes. At the end of cooking all the water should be absorbed and the cooking liquid and tomatoes should be glossy.
Cool the eggplant to warm or room temperature. Cut a slit in each eggplant and stuff with about 1 1/2 tbs of the onion/garlic/tomato mixture draining it on a fork as you stuff.
Transfer the eggplants to a serving platter. Spoon the sauce around them and sprinkle with parsley and pine nuts. Squeeze some of the lemon juice on top.
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