I love me a good tale and the one behind this Turkish recipe is truly fantastic.
Here’s how the story goes:
“A long time ago there lived a Turkish imam, well known for his appetite and love of good food. One day he surprised his friends by announcing his engagement to the beautiful young daughter of a rich olive oil merchant. At this stage, the imam’s friends were not aware of her abilities as a cook. Part of her dowry was a consignment of the very finest olive oil. The wealthy merchant gave the groom twelve great jars of the prized oil, each one as big as a man.
Following the wedding, the young daughter quickly revealed her talents as a Turkish cook and every day prepared a special dish for her new food-loving husband. Stuffed aubergine in olive oil was his absolute favorite, and so he asked his wife to make it for him every night as the centrepiece of his dinner. Being a good wife, she did as she was told, and made the delicious dish for twelve days in a row. On the thirteenth day, however, when the imam sat down to dinner, his favourite aubergine dish was starkly absent. The imam demanded to know the reason for its disappearance. The bride replied, “My dear husband, I cannot make your favourite dish anymore, for we have no more olive oil. You will have to buy some more.” The lmam was so shocked by the news that he fainted. And so ever since that day, his favorite dish has become known as ‘Imam Bayildi’,(the priest fainted).”
Imam Bayildi is one of the most celebrated Turkish recipes, and a very special one.
A delicious baked eggplant dish that is redolent of sautéed peppers, tomato, parsley, onion, garlic, and olive oil.
It packs a walloping good taste and it’s light on calories.
Served cold, it works very well as a starter (or ‘meze’); it can be a meal in itself or can be paired with a salad or some protein.
What really matters is that this vegetarian dish is not pushed to the side lines.
You can make it ahead of time and refrigerate it up to 2 - 3 days, bring it to room temperature, or warm it very slightly in the oven before serving.
If you like eggplants, tomato, onion and garlic, then this is definitely for you.
You may not faint like the imam, but you’ll surely love it.
6 slender eggplants (such as Japanese eggplants), about 7 inches long (about 2 lbs / 900 gr)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium red onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon, raw coconut palm sugar*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Fine grain salt
Ground black pepper
*or brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) and place a rack in the middle.
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and brush with olive oil.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove wide strips of the eggplants' skin.
Cut the eggplants open lengthwise, but don't slice completely through them. Sprinkle a big pinch of salt inside each eggplant, then set them all in a colander and let rest for about 30 minutes.
Place on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until the outer skin begins to shrivel. Remove from the oven and set aside.
In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add the onions.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, then add the bell pepper and garlic. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender and have collapsed, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the chopped tomato, sugar, cumin, tomato paste and parsley.
Cook for further 5 minutes, until fragrant. Set aside.
Reduce oven temperature 350°F (180°C).
Arrange the eggplants in the baking dish so that each one is butterflied open. Season with salt and fill with the onion and tomato mixture.
Drizzle with remaining olive oil, add two tablespoons of water to the baking dish and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes.
By the end of cooking the eggplants should be practically flat and the liquid in the pan slightly caramelized.
Serve warm or at room temperature, with a spoonful of the pan juices drizzled over the eggplant.
One serving yields 116 calories, 12 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of protein.