Baby Eggplant with Sweet Onion, Tomato and Mint (Imam Bayildi)

4 small eggplants

¼ C olive oil plus 2 T, divided

1 large sweet onion, sliced very thin

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ lb. (3 medium-large) tomatoes, peeled and chopped

½ t cumin

¼ t cinnamon

1 t sugar

½ C fresh mint, chopped

Make a slit, lengthwise, down the middle of each eggplant, being careful not to cut through the skin and without opening the ends. Heat a sauté pan large enough to hold the eggplants, and add ½ cup of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggplants and sauté quickly on all sides, until the skins are nicely browned and the oil is completely absorbed. Depending on the size of your eggplant, you may need to add a little more oil. Transfer the eggplants to a colander and place them cut side down. Allow to cool and drain for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the sliced onions. Sprinkle with one teaspoon of salt, cover with a lid and cook, stirring often, until the onions are very tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon and sugar. Continue to cook over medium heat, uncovered, until the tomatoes are reduced and the mixture becomes a thick sauce, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped mint.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange the eggplants cut side up in a baking dish. Open the slits and stuff each eggplant with the onion-tomato mixture. Drizzle with additional olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until very tender, about 1 hour. By the end of cooking the eggplants should be practically flat and the liquid in the dish slightly caramelized. Allow to cool in the baking dish and serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The finished dish can sit several hours. Serve 4-8.

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