Imam Bayildi, or ‘The Priest Wept’, is a Turkish stuffed eggplant recipe that makes a wonderful vegetarian meal!
I have the worst shopping habits. My mother always tried to teach me to buy complete outfits, not random bits and pieces that happen to catch my eye. I never listened to her, I prefer to let passion guide me, and I’ll go for the glorious but impractical color or the un-matchable paisley print every time. And of course she was right, to this day my closet is filled with more flashy (unworn) singletons than I’d care to admit…
No surprise, I grocery shop the same way. The other day I bagged these gorgeous glossy eggplants without a clue about what I was going to do with them.
I picked up these, too. Can you blame me?.
Several pages into a Tastespotting search for eggplant I came across a dish called Imam Bayildi, The Priest Wept — or fainted, or was exhilarated — depending on your Turkish translation. It’s an ancient vegetarian stuffed eggplant dish made with so much olive oil that, so the stories go, the priest was either overwhelmed by the sheer amount, cost, or deliciousness of all that oil. Probably all three.
I cut back a bit on the oil, I don’t want anyone fainting.
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- pinch pf allspice
- pinch of cardamom
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup finely chopped mint
- 2 tbsp finely chopped dill
- juice from a lemon
- salt and pepper
- feta cheese for garnish
- chopped pistachios for garnish
- Set oven to 350F
- Halve the eggplants lengthwise and cut a small section off the rounded bottoms so they will sit in the baking dish securely. Using a vegetable peeler, peel a few strips of the peel off to make a striped effect. This will allow the juices and flavors to penetrate into the eggplant better. Finally, make a slit down the center of the flesh, being careful not to cut all the way through. Lay them out in a rectangle baking dish.
- Using a grapefruit spoon or melon baller, cut away a small amount of the flesh to make room for the filling. This step is optional, you can also just pile the filling right on top. Season the eggplant with salt, pepper, and the juice of half the lemon.
- Halve the onion and finely slice it. Mince the garlic.
- Heat about 1/4 cup of the oil in a pan and saute the onions and garlic for about 20 minutes, on medium low, until they are soft. Add in the allspice and cardamom.
- Chop the tomatoes and add to a bowl along with the fresh herbs, juice of 1/2 the lemon, salt and pepper.
- Mix the onions with the tomatoes, making sure everything is evenly combined.
- Top each eggplant half with a mound of filling. Put any extra filling as well as 1/4 cup of water in the pan around the eggplant.
- Drizzle the eggplant with the remaining oil.
- Bake covered with foil for 1 hour, uncovering half way through.
- Serve with bread to sop up the juices. This is traditionally a meze, or Mediterranean small plate.
adapted from Clifford Wright