eggplants stuffed with tomatoes
By: Eleni Saltas
As the story goes, Imam Bayildi got its name from when an imam (a Muslim priest) fainted immediately upon eating this dish because it was so tasty. Wherever the name came from, it’s rich and impressive in taste. Imam Bayildi originates in Asia Minor and makes for a beautiful presentation and meal with eggplants stuffed with a fantastic onion and tomato mixture. Falling into the ladera (olive oil based) category, Imam Bayildi is cooked with lots of olive oil, and drizzled in more before serving. Get your favorite bread ready for dipping and enjoy.
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can of diced tomatoes (or two fresh tomatoes, diced)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
- 8 ounces feta cheese (optional)
Step by Step Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400F. Wash and dry the eggplants. Slice them in half lengthwise, keeping the stems intact. (You can cut them off but this makes the presentation nice when finished).
Place the eggplant in a ceramic dish or baking sheet. Score crisscross slits into each eggplant, drizzle with half of the olive oil and sprinkle some salt. Turn eggplants over cut side down and roast for 20-25 minutes to allow the eggplant to get tender. (Two alternative methods noted below.*)
Meanwhile, cook your stuffing. In a large skillet, add half of the olive oil. Add onions and sauté over low-medium heat for 5 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, season generously with salt and pepper. Sauté briefly, then add the diced tomatoes, oregano and chili flakes. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, stir in the parsley (reserve some for garnish), and then remove from heat.
Once the eggplant are cooked slightly and the flesh is tender and easy to scoop, remove from the oven. Carefully remove most of the eggplant pulp (about 2 tablespoons—but enough to keep the eggplants firm to be stuffed). Chop the pulp and then mix it to the onion-tomato mixture. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed, since eggplant doesn’t pack much flavor of its own.
Spoon the mixture equally into the eggplant boats and drizzle with olive oil. Turn down the oven to 350F and bake for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Serve with a final touch of drizzled olive oil, a garnish of parsley and enjoy.
*Alternative method 1: To get a more charred taste, you can wrap each eggplant in aluminum foil. Then, place eggplants over a gas, charcoal, or propane flame, turning frequently with tongs until soft.
Alternative method 2: Fry each eggplant on all sides until golden brown. With any method, the eggplants don’t need to cooked thoroughly because they will be baked later.