The Queen of Turkish Appetizers
Turkish cuisine is well known for its olive oil based vegetarian dishes. Many of these are served cold and often as appetizers. Imam Bayildi is no doubt one the most famous and most delicious of them all. In Turkish, it literally means «the imam fainted»! There are many tales behind the name of this recipe. But the most popular one is that the imam liked so much this dish when he was served by his wife that he simply fainted of delight!
This Turkish style eggplant recipe consists of small eggplants stuffed with onion, garlic, and tomatoes, then simmered in olive oil. You will be surprized how a simple dish like this one can be so good. Indeed, what makes Turkish cuisine so special is not just the fresh and healthy ingredients, but also the cooking techniques used.
Imam Bayildi has also a variation named Karniyarik which additionally contains minced beef and is served warm. Here is the Imam Bayildi recipe for your enjoyment:
Imam Bayildi Recipe
Imam BayildiPortions: 6 Preparation and Cooking Time: 135min
- 6 small and long eggplants
- 4 large onions
- 3 large tomatoes
- 10 cloves of garlic
- 1 small bunch of parsley
- 8ml (1 1/2 tbsp) sugar
- 375ml (1.5 cups) extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
Preparation and Cooking Method:
1. Cut and discard the stems from the eggplants. Peel lengthwise each eggplant by cutting off 1cm wide thin stripes, like on the skin of a zebra.
2. Cut each eggplant lengthwise in two halves, and into each of the halves, on the exposed side, cut off a large lengthwise notch paying attention not to pierce through the skin. Soak the eggplants in salted cold water for aboute 40 minutes. Drain and dry them with paper towels.
3. Heat 85ml (1/3 cup) of the olive oil in a lidded pan that is large enough to hold all the eggplant halves side by side. Fry lightly the eggplant halves, just enough so that they do not lose their firmness. Turn off the heat and position the halves in the pan tightly next to each other with the notch on each half facing upwards. Set aside.
4. Cut the onions in very thin quarter-moon shaped slices. Peel the garlic cloves and cut them lengthwise in two.
5. Heat 60ml (4 tbsp) olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onions until they become translucent but not golden. Be careful not to get the onions too soft. Add the garlic cloves and cook for just another minute.
6. Combine in a bowl the tomatoes washed and cut in small cubes, the parsley washed and minced, and the onion-garlic mixture. Add 5ml (1 tsp) salt and mix well.
7. Stuff a good amount of the mixture into the notch of each eggplant half. Cover the eggplants with the rest of the stuffing if there is any left. Add the remaining olive oil, 2 cups of water, the sugar, and 3ml (1/2 tsp) of salt. Cook first at high temperature until the liquid starts to boil, and then covered at very low temperature for 1 hour.
8. Refrigarate well and serve as a cold appetizer.