Have you ever fainted from the sheer joy of eating something sooo delightful? Neither have I! However, today’s dish, Imam Bayildi, says that someone actually did just that.
Imam bayildi literally means ‘imam (Muslim cleric) fainted’ in the Turkish language. Legend has it that the dish was so delicious and the imam lost his senses. However, there is another version of the story which says that the imam actually fainted at the thought of the amount of olive oil used in the dish and its cost.
Though imam bayildi is recognized as of Turkish origin, variations of the dish are popular in many countries, mainly in the old Ottoman empire.
This stuffed eggplant dish can be made with eggplants of any type, but the medium sized purple ones are the best. Though onions, tomatoes and garlic are the essentials of the stuffing, you can add other vegetables, finely chopped, to the mix.
I used bell peppers – red and green- and cauliflower in this version.
Eggplants tend to soak up oil; so, you can decide how much olive oil you want to brush on the eggplant halves. Goes without saying, the more oil, the more flavorful it is.
On a side note, eggplants are delicious by themselves, in simple preparations. Cut into thick rounds and brushed liberally with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, roast them in the oven for 20 minutes and you have a lovely side dish ready. Or try roasting and mixing them with a chopped tomato and a spoonful of balsamic vinegar… yum!
Whether you believe the story or not, this vegetarian dish is actually very tasty. Imam bayildi can be served with cooked rice or flat bread.
I is for Imam Bayildi
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cut each eggplant into two lengthwise. Brush with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the eggplant halves on a baking sheet and place on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven. Bake till the eggplant is soft, about 30 to 45 minutes based on the size of the eggplant.
- Meanwhile, heat a pan on medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan.
- Add the chopped onions to the pan and cook till they are transparent.
- Add the chopped bell peppers, jalapeño pepper, and cauliflower and continue cooking.
- When the vegetables, start to wilt, add the garlic and cook for a minute.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and oregano. Mix well and continue to cook.
- When the mix is almost dry, turn off the heat.
- When the eggplants are cooked, make a depression in the middle of each piece with the back of a spoon. Pile up the cooked filling along the center of the eggplant.
- Top with crumbled feta and chopped cilantro. Return to the hot oven and heat through for 10 minutes.
- Serve with cooked rice or flat bread.