So I had eggplants and a lot of time to kill last night, so I started looking though my cookbooks for something exciting. So I ended up attempting Imam Bayildi for the first time.
I’ve never ordered this is a restaurant, so I have no idea how authentic the taste ended up being, but I liked it.
I used the recipe from Tess Mallos’ Complete Middle East Cookbook. Only I didn’t have any parsley, and I had leeks to use up, so I swapped them for the onions and parsley both. And I added the juice of half a lime because I had already used its zest in popcorn, so it was just going to dry out if I didn’t use it quickly.
So here’s how I made it –
2 chinese eggplants
roughly 3 Tablespoons of olive oil, YMMV
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
juice of 1 lemon (+ half a lime – optional)
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water
Cut off the root bit of the leek, slice it in half lengthwise, and then cut into strips that range from 1/2″ where it is white to 1mm where it is dark green and tough. Dump all of the slices into a large bowl of water and rub them through your fingers to make sure they are as clean as possible. Wash the cutting board, and let the leeks sit in the water while you prepare the eggplants. Then rub them through your fingers some more and lift the floaters out of the water and let drain. Don’t try to get every piece of leek out of the bottom because you’ll stir up the sediment.
Wash 2 long chinese eggplants. Remove the stem, and peel off strips of the skin so that it looks striped (I accidentally peeled 4 stripes consistently, and that really helped to make them nice and square for turning evenly – worth doing again on purpose). Then, so they’d fit in my pot, I sliced them in half widthwise. Cut a deep slit lengthwise in each piece, stopping short of each end.
In a pan (I used my soup pot because I don’t have a lid for any of my deep saute pans), pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot (the recipe called for 1/2 cup for 8 medium eggplants – I used more like 2 Tablespoons). Turn the burner on to medium high, and once the oil gets up to temperature, add the eggplant sections. While doing the next step, check in with the eggplants occasionally to turn them and make sure that the brown (lightly) evenly – but you want them still a bit firm.
In a saute pan, add another 2 teaspoons of olive oil and fry down the leeks with a sprinkle of salt. Once they start to brown, add 3 chopped cloves of garlic. Cook 1 more minute, and then pour the leeks and garlic into a bowl with the peeled and diced tomatoes. Mix that together with pepper (since you already salted the leeks, take a taste before adding more salt to the mixture).
Squeeze the citrus into a cup, and mix in the sugar and water so the sugar dissolves.
By now, your eggplants are probable nicely golden. Turn them so the slits are up and wiggle the slits open with a spoon. Now spoon in the tomato/leek mixture (or tomato/onion/parsley mixture, if you were following the real recipe). Any filling that does not fit inside can be piled on top, but all of mine pretty much fit. Add the lemon juice/sugar/water mixture and cover the pan/pot tightly. Cook on gently heat for 45 minutes.
And then, even though it is supposed to be served cool or room temperature, I ate two pieces right away – on bread to sop up the juice. And I put away the other two pieces to have later (maybe with a salad).