Need a good side dish? Imam Bayildi is one of my favorite go-to recipes whenever I am at a loss. It’s a good family dish and also works for company.
I learned to make Imam Bayildi years ago when I was working on an article for eggplant. I found a recipe and the name of the dish, translated, was so intriguing — “the Imam fainted” — I had to try it. If only because, as the story goes, the Imam (an Islamic clergyman or spiritual leader) who first ate this dish was so delighted that he passed out from joy.
Well, whether the tale is apocryphal or not, this dish is very very good. And what’s more, you can serve it hot, warm or at room temp, so you can either get it together in advance and cook it for dinner, or make the whole thing in advance and serve it for dinner.
It’s also a good item for a vegetarian meal (I like it accompanied by scrambled eggs or mushroom ragout).
This year during Passover I made this dish for dinner and used leeks instead of the usual onions. My family liked it even better this way, so here’s the recipe.
Btw, a tumblr reader once told me she added olives to the dish when she made it. I’ve tried that and it is delicious! So, add some olives if you like — black, pitted olives make the dish even more colorful.
1 medium eggplant
1/2 cup olive oil
3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
3 large tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup water
Cut the eggplant into slices about 3/8-inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and let rest for 30 minutes. Wipe the eggplant slices dry with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook the eggplant slices a few at a time for 2-3 minutes per side or until slightly wilted. Add more olive oil to the pan as needed to prevent scorching (use 4-5 tablespoons more if needed). Place the cooked eggplant into a baking dish (cut it into smaller pieces if you wish). Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan. Add the leeks and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Cook for one minute, stirring frequently. Spoon the vegetables on top of the eggplant. Drizzle with any remaining olive oil and the water. Cover the pan and bake for 45 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
Makes 6-8 servings