Not for the faint of heart.Gather Journal Imam Bayildi
Once upon a time there lived a Turkish imam who married the daughter of a wealthy olive oil merchant (her dowry: a dozen human-sized bottles of her family’s merch). Every night he asked her to make stuffed eggplant in olive oil, and for 12 days she obliged. When, on the 13th, his beloved aubergine was missing from the table his wife announced there was no more olive oil; and the imam fainted, or “imam bayildi.” Eggplant’s sponge-like nature sopped up all the oil. That the punishment in hell for greed is being boiled alive in oil, makes this eggplant dish even more apropos.
serves 4 as a starter
Peel stripes in the eggplant skins lengthwise and then make a deep cut into each from one end to the other without going through. Transfer the eggplants to a bowl of water with 2 tsp salt stirred in. Halve the lemon, squeezing the juice into the water, then drop halves in. Soak eggplants about 30 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
While the eggplants are soaking, soak the raisins in 2 Tbsp boiling water.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat half the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Patiently fry the eggplants, turning until golden on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a small roasting pan slit side up.
Add the remaining oil to the skillet. Cook the onion and pepper until softened. Stir in garlic, cumin, and allspice and cook, stirring, 2 minutes longer. Add tomatoes, raisins with their soaking liquid, tomato paste, and harissa. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, but still saucy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Gently pry the eggplants open and divide the filling among them pressing the inner flesh to make room. Add ¼ cup water to the pan and bake until eggplants are meltingly tender, 30-45 minutes.
Serve at room temperature drizzled with a little olive oil along with bread and yogurt.