This dish arrived to Greece with the Greek refugees from Asia Minor early 1900s. It only got recognition in the late 1950s when local Greeks accepted the recipes that were introduced by the Greek refugees.
The name supposedly derives from a tale of a Turkish imam who swooned with pleasure at the flavor when presented with this dish by his wife, although other more humorous accounts suggest that he fainted upon hearing the cost of the ingredients or the amount of oil used to cook the dish.
Another folk-tale relates that an imam married the daughter of an olive oil merchant. Her dowry consisted of twelve jars of the finest olive oil, with which she prepared each evening an eggplant dish with tomatoes and onions. On the thirteenth day, there was no eggplant dish at the table. When informed that there was no more olive oil, the imam fainted.
- 4 Italian style eggplants
- 1 large white onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 4 medium sized tomatoes
- 1tbsp tomato paste
- Fresh parsley
- Fresh mint
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Black pepper
- Wash parsley and mint under cold water and strain
- Place the eggplants on the table and with your hand flat on the eggplant apply enough pressure and roll back and forwards until you can feel the seeds are braking and the eggplant softens.
- With a sharp small knife slice the skin of the eggplants from top to bottom, enough to open as a pocket but without cutting through the other side of the eggplant.
- With the help of a teaspoon remove the seeds from the eggplant. You must now have a pocket like looking eggplant.
- Salt the inside of the eggplants generously, place them on a drip tray and allow standing for at least 30 minutes (not longer than an hour). You will see water dripping from the eggplants. This helps to reduce the water and take away the bitterness from the eggplants.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil each eggplant for about 3 minutes. They will change color to brown and soften. Place again on the drip tray with open side facing down to drain and cool off.
- Chop the onion to medium size pieces, slice the garlic cloves and dice the tomatoes to medium size dice as well.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add 1/3 cup olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft but not caramelized.
- Add the tomato and sauté for about a minute
- Add the tomato paste diluted in half a cup of cold water and simmer together for about 4 minutes.
- Empty tomato garlic and onion mix in a bowl and allow cooling down.
- Chop about a handful each of parsley and mint and add to tomato mix.
- Taste for salt and pepper and season well.
- With a spoon fill the eggplants with the tomato mix generously and stack them next to each other in a small baking tray or Pyrex. Drizzle the eggplants with olive oil.
- Cover the food in the tray with parchment paper and seal properly with aluminum foil.
- Bake in preheated oven at 370F or 170C for 30 minutes covered and another 20 or 30 minutes with the parchment paper and aluminum foil removed.
- Remove from the oven. With a spoon collect the water and oil in the tray and wet the top of the eggplants. Serve hot or have them cold as a snack the next day.
Recipe and photo: Chef Tony Kavalieros
See the video at: https://youtu.be/5PA_oU_krJM