So I liked the Imam Bayildi so much that I started making vows such as, “I shall never use any other method to prepare eggplant!”
And I immediately set out to bastardize the recipe. And since they are chinese eggplants I’ve got, I was thinking something vaguely chinese in flavor. Especially since I was reminded of the buttery texture of the stuffed and fried eggplant in black bean sauce at my current asian restaurant.
But I wasn’t about to start messing with pork mince and shrimp… actually, I could even be bothered to thaw a hamburger patty of (nothing but) ground turkey and repurpose it… but I did have a zucchini looking for a home.
So I actually ended up jumping out at bed at 2am after I made the Imam Bayildi to jot down notes for modifying it. But let me spoil the ending of the story and tell you that it just didn’t end up as perfect. I don’t know if it just needs tomatoes to have the perfect synergy of flavors or if it would have been perfect if I’d just added more sugar (or oil!), but I’m still liking the result enough that I will be tinkering with this recipe some more – even the disappointing version is entirely edible.
Peel 2 chinese eggplants in stripes, cut in half widthwise, and cut deep slits into each of the 4 pieces. Drop them into a pan with 1 Tablespoon hot oil (see, I’m still trying to minimize the oil, and maybe that’s just going in the face of the whole point of the original recipe), and turn them at intervals until the outside is evenly golden.
Meanwhile, fry cleaned leeks in 2 tsps oil until just starting to brown. (And this here is another place I might need to tinker. See – using all the way up the greens of the leeks was great when I was also capturing the chlorophyll taste of parsley, but it ended up being a bit too much damp green leek in this version. Then again, maybe it would have been better if the leeks had gone into the pan drier (or if there were more oil) – this experiment and reading about Orangette‘s perfectly cleaned and dried leeks has my pondering the purchase of a salad spinner.)
Once the leeks are soft, add minced garlic and ginger. A minute later, add zucchini diced a little smaller that 1cm (so it will stuff inside the eggplant nicely, but not so small that it loses justifiability). Cook just another minute or two longer – maybe with a splash of a stir fry sauce, if you have a good one. I had just finished a bottle, so I did without.
Turn the eggplants so they are slit side up, wiggle a spoon into the slit to open it up, and then stuff with the leek/zucchini. If there is any left, pile it on top.
Mix together – the juice of one lime, 1/2 tsp sugar (I ended up using a teaspoon of the lime simple syrup I had leftover), 2 tsp soy sauce (and I still ended up seasoning both versions with more plain salt while eating, but that might just be me), and 1/2 cup of water. Pour the mixture into the pot with the eggplant, put on the lid, and simmer on low for 45 minutes.
So, as I said, not perfect – nowhere near as exciting as the original – but still decently tasty.
And then I’ve been using the leftovers.
1 day I microwaved a whole stuffed eggplant piece and wrapped it in a piece of bread and ate it as a sandwich. 🙂
Another day, I made a salad of spring mix, 1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese pieces, a tomato, and a de-seeded and sliced serrano pepper. Topped that off with microwaved (and sliced into smaller pieces) Imam Bayildi. And dressed it with some balsamic vinegar stirred up with half a teaspoon of dijon mustard.
I think tonight I’ll make a salad with carrots and crispy noodles and top it with one of the modified versions (and dress it with black vinegar mixed with a 1/4 teaspoon chinese mustard).