One of my favorite items at the Middle Eastern (Syrian, I think, though there are several Lebanese restaurants here) restaurant around the corner is Imam bayende. I found a couple of recipes on the internet – this one seems interesting (yes, more eggplant!). It also looks time-consuming, so I’m going to eat more while I am here!
• 2 medium onions, chopped
• 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
• 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled
• salt and pepper
• 2 medium eggplants
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Prep Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 1/4 hr
Saute the onions in a little oil. Add the garlic, tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook until it comes together as a very thick stew (no liquid). Stir in mint.
Cut the stem ends from each eggplant and cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Make 3 lengthwise slits, almost from end to end, cutting into the flesh about 1 inch deep.
Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant, cut side down, and fry gently, until dark golden-brown on cut side. Turn over and fry on skin side a couple more minutes.
Remove from oil (most of it will have been absorbed) and place on paper towels to drain for at least 15 minutes before proceeding with recipe (this gets rid of most of the oil- you can omit the frying step to cut calories and save time, but you will NOT have the same flavorful results, and the recipe will not be as authentic).
Preheat oven to 350°F. Hold each slit apart and spoon the vegetable mixture into each cavity. Arrange eggplants in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Sprinkle with sugar, lemon juice, and drizzle with the remaining oil. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender.
Serve with lots of crusty bread (note, it is not served with bread around the corner!).
Now the food for thought – I am a big fan of Sister Cities. I loved going through O’Hare and seeing the information on Chicago’s Sister Cities, and was thrilled when I met a Morocco RPCV who is on the Chicago-Casablanca Sister Cities committee. I’m still on the Sister Cities web site, listed as looking for a sister city for Azrou. When I was in Kapan, I heard that it was a sister city of Glendale (nice coup!) so I decided to find out more. Sadly, Kapan is not listed on the official Sister Cities International site – opportunity! Here are the ones that are listed: Etchmiadzin-Fresno, Gyumri-Alexandria, VA, Vanadzor-Pasadena, Yerevan-Cambridge, MA and Los Angeles. I repeat, opportunity!
I had to take some photos off of my computer again – I’ve had to do this periodically since I got the computer back. It was almost full at the time; I’ve added memory twice before and I think it can take no more. So the hard drive I bought when I was formulating Plan B has been vital. But every time I take photos off in order to fit more on, I get more than a little bit anxious. On the other hand, if it were a few years earlier, I’d be buried in prints!
I changed the address for my New Yorker subscription too early – I haven’t gotten an issue in weeks and I am down to my last one! I’ll enjoy the newest issues once I get back, and I do have other things to read, but this is the first time in my adult life that I don’t have a stack of them in front of me. Sigh.
And another thing to be concerned about – Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are eligible for Corps Care, a COBRA-like health plan, for 18 months; I plan to sign up. As of now, there’s no coverage after August 31. The rates went up too much, so Peace Corps is looking for another supplier. I imagine there will be one by the end of August, but I think it behooves me to look into other options just in case. Ugh.
Last, I wanted to comment on a word I’ve been hearing since I got here – “normal.” People use it all the time – for example, how are those cookies? Normal. It’s used here a lot more than I usually, commonly, ordinarily (i.e., normally) hear it back home. I haven’t made it my own yet, but if when I get back you hear me saying it more often than most Americans say it, that’s why!