Eggplant Fans

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3 medium sized eggplants, ends trimmed
2 large, firm tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced
1/3  to 1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tender artichokes
1/2 cup small pitted black olives, rinsed
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon mixed dried thyme, oregano and savory
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 thickness, 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 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, and turning the heat down to about 350F 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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