Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Imam Bayildi (Cold Eggplant Dish)

There are different ways of presenting this dish, but the ingredients are always the same. The name means, in Turkish, "the imam fainted". Some stories claim that the imam fainted because the dish was so delicious, others claim that the imam fainted when he found out how much olive oil his wife had used to make it. Frying the eggplant is a bit of work, but you can prepare the other ingredients while it's frying so it actually does not take a huge amount of time to make. This is one of my favorite dishes...

3 long (“asian”) eggplants, or 1 large or 2 small globe eggplants
equal amount of diced tomatoes as you have uncooked eggplant
1 onion, diced large (about ½ to ¾ cup)
5 cloves of garlic, crushed slightly with the side of a knife, but not chopped.
Equal amount of diced tomatoes as you have uncooked eggplant. Can be peeled or unpeeled, seeds are ok. Canned diced tomatoes are NOT a good substitute in this recipe.
vegetable oil for frying
olive oil
green spicy pepper, optional
juice of half a lemon
chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish

To prepare the eggplant: Peel stripes into the eggplant (don’t peel the whole thing, but leave some stripes of peel) and cut into either 1 to 2 inch cubes or 1-inch thick slices, if globe eggplant. If Asian eggplant, cut into 2-inch lengths. The shape is not too important. Place the eggplant pieces into a colander and sprinkle them with salt (try to get salt on all of the cut parts of the eggplant). Let the eggplant sit for at least half an hour. Rinse the eggplant and squeeze as much liquid out of each piece as you can without breaking the eggplant pieces. Dry each piece with a paper towel.

Fry eggplant in heated oil until brown. You will know the oil is hot enough if you press a bamboo chopstick into the bottom of the pan and small bubbles come up from it. When each piece is fried, take it out of the oil and let excess oil drip off. Place onto paper towel to drain.

For the rest of the recipe: Soften diced onion in some olive oil. Add garlic and tomatoes and stir. If you want to add a chile or pepper, chop into pieces the same size as the onion and add it now. Let these ingredients come to a simmer, then add fried eggplant and cover with boiling water (it should not be more than a cup of water, even less is ok). Add one or two teaspoons of salt, the juice of half a lemon, cover and simmer until the tomato has melted into a sauce.

Empty into a serving platter and cool. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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