The Cleric Fainted (or Greek Stuffed Eggplant)

I just love the name of this dish! Both the Greeks and the Turks claim this dish. The name, however, comes from the legend that a Turkish religious leader fainted when he was served this dish because it was so good. 

2-4 eggplants, depending on their size
1 lg. or 2 small white onions, sliced thinly
@4 mushrooms, chopped
About 1/4 – 1/2 cup of Greek olive oil
1-2 tomatoes, pulped and strained, or 1/2 can chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sugar and a pinch of cinnamon
1-2 garlic cloves, finely diced or pressed
2-3 T. finely chopped cilantro
2 T. breadcrumbs (optional)
1 tsp. Greek oregano or mixed Greek spices
Salt and pepper

Wash eggplants well and slice evenly down middle, but not tearing any of the skin. If using medium – large eggplants, score or slice again on both sides of the middle, creating 1/2″ – 1″ thick slices of eggplant. 
Soak in a salt water bath. The salt releases the bitter juices from the eggplant and will make the taste much better.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  Rinse the eggplant with fresh water, drizzle the insides generously with oil, then place the eggplants under the broiler and cook until soft, about 10-20 minutes. Remove until cool enough to handle, then remove the eggplant flesh leaving a boat-like holder. Chop the eggplant flesh and set aside. (If the insides are not soft enough to remove, re-oil the insides of the eggplants and place again under the broiler.) Heat  enough olive oil in a large pan to saute the sliced onions until translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant flesh and tomatoes with the pinches of sugar and cinnamon; cook until everything is tender and incorporated, about 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cilantro, oregano, salt, pepper and simmer for another 5 minutes. Then, remove pan from heat and allow mixture to cool slightly. Place the eggplant “shoes” into a baking dish lightly oiled. Carefully fill each eggplant “shoe” with a generous portion of the mixture, being careful not to tear the eggplant skins. Once the eggplants have been filled, pour any remaining oil from the frying pan over everything, and add a little hot water to the dish (1/4 – 1/2 cup). Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top of each stuffed eggplant and place pan in the oven and bake for 20-45 minutes, or until very, very tender.    

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