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Eggplant Fans

3 medium sized eggplants, ends trimmed
2 large, firm tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil (75 to 125 ml)
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tender artichokes
1/2 cup small pitted black olives, rinsed (125 ml)
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 tsp mixed dried thyme, oregano and savory (5 ml)
Salt and pepper

Split the eggplants lengthwise. Place the halves, split side down,
on a chopping board, and cut each half lengthwise into 1/2 inch (1
cm) thicknesses, leaving the slices attached at the stem end to
form fans. Slip tomato slices into the slits of the eggplant
halves. Oil a large gratin dish with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the
olive oil, and scatter half the onion and garlic over the bottom.
Arrange the eggplant halves, gently forced together, side by side
in the dish.

Pour the remaining olive oil into a bowl. Pare the artichokes to
the hearts and quarter them, removing the chokes; place the hearts
immediately into the oil, turning them around to coat them completely
and protect them from contact with air. Force the quartered
artichoke hearts and the olives into the crevices around the eggplant
fans. Fit in the bay leaf fragments here and there, scatter the
remaining onion and garlic over the surface, and sprinkle with the
herbs, salt and pepper. Press everything into place to form as
regular a surface as possible. Dribble the oil left over from the
artichokes over the entire surface, adding a bit more if necessary.
Place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the surface and bake
for about 1 1/2 hours, starting with a very hot oven, preheated to
450F (230C), and turning the heat down to about 350F (180C) after
10 minutes or so.

When done, the stem ends of the eggplants should be soft to the
touch. Serve as an hors d'oeuvre, at room temperature.

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