Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Imam Bayildi - The Imam Fainted

This is probably the most delicious eggplant recipe that I know of. It's an authentic Turkish recipe, and according to the story it was prepared for the head Imam who fainted after he saw how much olive oil was used to prepare this dish. I don't know how true the story is but I think it is the best and worth fainting for:)

It's very very easy to make although the cooking time is long. To me it's definitely worth it. Because the preparation time is not long at all. It takes me about 5-10 minutes of preparation time and then I simmer it for about an hour. All I have to do is to remember to set my timer and check the water level around 30 -35 minutes after it starts simmering.

Although the recipe has instructions for the eggplant to be fried, I don't; just to make it a little bit more healthy and it really doesn't lose that much from the taste. Actually I think it really is better. Use the Japanese type long eggplant, not the round ones. And choose meatier ones, not very tiny ones.

And I don't salt the eggplant because they are not really that bitter as they used to be. So using them right away hasn't been a problem for me. Maybe I'm being lazy, so go ahead and prepare as you wish.

And this is a dish that gets better over time. So if you can have it stay around for a day it will taste much better. Enjoy...


4 small eggplant (about 1 1/ 2 pounds)
10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium-size onions, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 medium sized green peppers, not hot, you can use green bell peppers
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water

Peel off strips of the eggplant skin at 1-inch intervals to make a stripped effect. Cut off the stem portion, then cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Make a deep lengthwise slit along the flesh side of the eggplant, making sure you don't puncture the skin. Salt the flesh and set aside, flesh side down, on some paper towels for 30 minutes to leach the eggplant of its bitter juices. Dry with paper towels.

In a large skillet, heat 1/ 4 cup of the olive oil over high heat and once it's smoking, fry the eggplant, flesh side down, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from the skillet to drain on some paper towels.

In the same skillet you cooked the eggplant, add the remaining oil and heat over medium-high heat, then cook the onion and garlic until soft and yellow, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn't burn. Transfer the onions to a medium-size bowl and mix well with the tomatoes, green peppers, parsley, dill, sugar, salt to taste, and a few tablespoons of the cooking oil.

Arrange the eggplant halves in a large skillet or casserole with the slit side up. Gently open the slit so that they can accommodate as much of the stuffing as possible. Season the eggplant with salt, then stuff each one so that the stuffing fills the slits and is spread to cover all the flesh. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the eggplant. Pour any remaining sauce or juices, along with the water, into the skillet, cover, and cook over low heat until the eggplant is soft, about 50 minutes, adding water to the skillet if it is getting too dry. Let the eggplants cool in the skillet and serve whole at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings

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