Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011: A Foodie Odyssey part 4, Syria: Imnesila

Syria was the winner of last weeks 2011: A Foodie Odyssey!  I was excited as I have never eaten a dish from Syria.  Have you?  What was it?  Share with us by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page!

Come to find out Syrian cuisine is influenced by it's Greek and Asian neighbors, as well as French occupation.  Not to say there is no middle eastern influence.  Gaining independence from France in 1946, Syria has since been a major player in the middle east.  Well I'm here to learn about and share some food from a country known more for it's politics.

Typically a meal is served with an assortment of appetizers called Meze.  Syria is also known for Shawarma, Humus, and their cheese.  I chose to make Imnesila, an eggplant and lamb dish.  The best way to describe this meal off the top of my head is, "It's like eggplant parmesan without the breading, and a lamb meat sauce!"  Of course if you know me I was sold.  I love lamb and am always looking for new recipes that I can try that require it.  I was not to sure about the eggplant, I have only had it the parmesan way.

I am glad that I took a leap of faith!  This dish was very easy to prepare and was very simple to execute.  The flavor was off the charts, and there is so much you could do to add your own flavor.  The pine nuts are an awesome flavor and add great texture.  Beef would work just as well as the lamb, or you could even go vegetarian if you like!  The time it takes to cook is just about the most difficult thing about this dish, it could take about an hour if you take your time.   I must also warn you that eggplant has a high absorption rate, do not use to much oil or you will regret it for sure.

Here is What You'll Need:

1 large eggplant
3/4 pounds of ground lamb
1 medium onion diced
1 can tomato paste
olive oil
pine nuts
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brown your lamb, pine nuts, and onion, adding all the ingredients at the same time.  Be sure to continually stir as the lamb is much more sticky than beef.  You will have large meat balls if you get lazy here!  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste as you cook.

 Dilute your tomato paste with water and mix well.  This is where I took some liberty to add some ingredients of my own.  I added minced garlic and a touch of salt. 

Next you need to peel the eggplant, you can slice it how you like. I opted to go lengthwise as suggested. To tell you the truth that part of the recipe confused me. It calls for you to slice the portioned eggplant pieces on the top. Then you fry them, careful on the amount of oil! I figured that the eggplant would open up allowing me to stuff it, that was not the case.

    I just layered the meat mixture on top of the eggplant and topped with the tomato sauce.  Bake for a half hour and serve. I hope you give this one a go!  If you have been wanting to try something new and not difficult to prepare this would be a good one to consider.  Put your own spin on it and have fun, love food, and live life!  If you do I would love to hear about it!

It is suggested to serve over rice. I can not cook rice! It is the kryptonite to my culinary existence. I have tried and tried but always find a way to mess it up. So I use boil in a bag rice! Now even I can cook rice!

Albania is the winner of country of the week!  I will be making a main and a desert so be sure to check back in!  Don't forget to vote for next week on the poll at the top of this page! 

What's your culinary kryptonite?  We all have one!

Love Food, Live Life!


  1. Yummm I told you I was uber excited about this! It did not disappoint =) I really really want some of this syrian eggplant parm now!


  2. Thanx Jenn! I know you love your veggies and this has so much room to work in your own twist!