This is a variation on the famous Turkish dish, Imam Bayildi which literally means "The Iman Fainted". They say a certain Imam who tasted this dish after observing a holy day and ending a long fast was so taken with the aroma of this dish, he actually fainted. May you be so lucky to witness this same reaction!
The original dish does not include the lamb, so feel free to remove this ingredient and skip the first 5 ingredients and step 1. Either way, its delicious! This is a stove top dish that I consider easy to prepare, although there is a bit of preparation. This can be served as a main dish or as a side dish.
Eggplant with Lamb, Onion + Tomatoes
1/2lb of ground lamb
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 large cloves of crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium eggplants, split lengthwise, trim stem from one end
4 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, run through a garlic press
1 cup of flat-leaf parsley, dill and chives, finely chopped (you can also use basil in the mix)
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
Wedge of Lemon (optional)
1. In a hot skillet heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic. When soft, add ground lamb and cook until lamb is brown--about 10 minutes under medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Split eggplant lengthwise, sprinkle with coarse sea salt (about 1 teaspoon per half), and let stand for 15-20 minutes. The salt takes away the bitter taste from the eggplant. Rinse Salt off and blot dry. Place eggplant halves, flesh side up in a skillet just large enough to hold all four in a single layer.
3. Combine onion, tomatoes, garlic and herbs, a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil (from the 1/2 cup listed above) in a bowl.
4. Add the ground lamb and gently fold in.
5. Mound 1/4 of the mixture on top of each eggplant, covering all flesh.
6. Combine the remaining olive oil, water and sugar. Pour the liquid into the skillet around the eggplant. Cover and cook over low/medium heat until eggplant are soft and flat, about 1 1/2 hours. Every 1/2 hour baste with the oil in the skillet. As the eggplant softens, gently press the mixture down into the eggplant.
7. Just before serving, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts for 1-2 minutes just to release the flavor
8. Carefully transfer eggplant to a serving dish, spoon over the oil mixture it cooked in. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy!