Anyway, where am I going? Oh right, the food. That delicious though collapsed-looking stuffed eggplant above. As I spooned the butter-and-garlic-toasted-breadcrumbs over the eggplants before sliding them into the oven, I thought of the scene in the movie (and apologies, because I know I'm botching this): "Whenever something tastes incredibly delicious, the secret is always butter."
That is the wisest line of the whole movie.
And here's the recipe.
Imam Bayildi (literally, "The Emperor Fainted," how cool is that?)
2 medium eggplants, halved
3 cups chopped onions
3 tbsp olive oil
4 or 5 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped fresh basil
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
First, halve both eggplants lengthwise. Score the flesh in a crosswise pattern, sprinkle with salt, and let them rest facedown in a colander for half an hour. This lets the bitter eggplant juices drain out.
Meanwhile, you can start on the filling. Warm the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and melty-looking. Add the tomatoes and herbs, cook five minutes longer, and remove from the heat.
Now take your salted eggplants and squeeze them out. Rinse them once, and squeeze again. Pull all the "guts" out of the eggplants, leaving a 1/2" wall around the perimeter. Add the guts to the filling mixture.
Preheat your oven to 350, and oil a 9 x 13 baking dish. Set the eggplants, cavity-side up in the pan. Add about 1/2 a cup of water to the bottom.
Toast your breadcrumbs: warm the oil and butter in a small frying pan. Add the garlic and crumbs and cook, stirring and mashing with a spoon, until the mixture is evenly blended and the crumbs are golden brown. They will also, incidentally, smell incredible.
Take a couple healthy scoops of filling mixture and stuff it into the first unsuspecting eggplant half. Repeat for the following eggplants. Heap the filling up a little-- you might end up with some leftover filling. Don't worry, you'll find something to do with it. Top the eggplants with breadcrumbs. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and slide it into the oven for an hour. Remove the foil, and let it bake an additional 20 minutes.
Serve, with a side of bulghur, quinoa, or brown rice.