When we received an eggplant in this week’s CSA box, I knew it was time to make some Imam Bayildi. Rob doesn’t really like eggplant, so I get it all to myself!
Imam Bayildi is a Turkish dish of roasted and stuffed eggplant. It’s name, translated, means “The Imam fainted.” The story with the dish is that an imam married a woman who was the daughter of an olive oil merchant, and part of her dowry was 10 bottles of olive oil. On their first night she made him this dish and he asked for it to be cooked every night, and she complied for 10 nights. On the 11th night she didn’t cooked it, and he asked why. She explained that all the olive oil had been used up, which caused him to faint from surprise.
Imam Bayildi is usually more of an entree, but I’m sharing my family recipe with you today, which treats it as more of an easily scooped up appetizer. The ingredients are simple, but this recipe does take a fair bit of time. But I promise – it’s worth it!
You will need:
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 large sweet onions
- 8 tomatoes
- 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
- 3/4 cup olive oil
Start with your onions, and chop them up into small pieces (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch). In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, heat up 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for about 10 minutes until the onions are translucent. Turn the heat down to medium, stir regularly, and let the onions continue to cook until they start to caramelize – about 30-40 minutes.
Take half of the sugar and sprinkle it over the onions. Cook the onions for about 5-10 minutes more. While the onions are finishing up, chop your tomatoes. Small chop/large dice size – about 1/2 inch. Add the tomatoes and the rest of the sugar to the sauté pan, and cook over medium until the tomatoes release their juice, about 10-15 minutes.
Turn the heat down to low and let the mixture simmer uncovered until the liquid has cooked off. Depending on the type of tomatoes you use this could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
While the tomatoes and onions are cooking down, it’s time to prepare your eggplant. Quarter your eggplant long-ways, and then cut into slices about 1/8 inch thick. Pour a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish and spread around, then fan and overlap your eggplant slices on the bottom of the pan.
Then, take the remaining half cup of olive oil and drizzle it over the eggplant. Once the tomato and onion mixture is done cooking down, spoon it into the pan over the eggplant slices.
Pop into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. The edges will get nicely brown.
And there you go! It will take about 3-4 hours. But in the end you’ll have a wonderful sweet, tangy, glorious dish. In my family we let it cool down and then eat it with pita bread or slices of baguette.
I hope you enjoy it – Let me know what you think!