The Imam Swooned

The Imam Swooned

(Imam Bayildi)

4 medium-size eggplants (about 7 inches long)

Salt (coarse or kosher is best)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon allspice (or 3 allspice berries, crushed)

Pepper to taste

1 cup chopped parsley

3 tablespoons tomato paste

Lemon wedges for garnish

Wash and dry eggplants, and remove stems. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off long strips of skin lengthways leaving alternate strips of skin. With a sharp knife, cut a long, 1/4-inch-deep pocket in each eggplant leaving about an inch uncut at each end. Rub salt into slit and peeled eggplant strips, and set aside for one hour.

Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan and add onions, peppers, and garlic. Saute about 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add tomatoes, paprika, allspice, salt, and pepper to taste, and half the parsley. Saute for five minutes, stir in tomato paste, and remove to a separate dish from heat.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In the large frying pan, heat about 1/4 inch of olive oil. Rinse and thoroughly wipe eggplants. Carefully add eggplants to frying pan and saute slowly over low to medium heat until they begin to soften and brown, turning them several times in the process.

Arrange eggplant in a shallow baking dish. Stuff each one with the vegetable mixture. Mix remaining mixture with about 1-1/2 cups of water and pour over eggplant. Bake for 45 minutes or until eggplant is very soft when pierced with a fork.

Allow to cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 4 as a main course, or about 12 as an appetizer.

The dish goes well with feta cheese, a variety of olives, a light salad, and broiled pita bread brushed with olive oil. It may be made a day ahead if kept refrigerated.

Swoon.

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