Imam Bayildi (Swooning Imam)
The story is that when an Imam came home from the mosque, his wife had prepared this dish for his lunch. On tasting it, he fainted. Some think it was because he was so delighted with the dish; others think that his reaction was more due to the high cost of one of its main ingredients: olive oil.
6 Italian eggplants (about 2 pounds),
each about 6 inches long
3/4 cup virgin olive oil, divided
4 medium Spanish onions, thinly sliced (2 cups)
12 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped (1-1/2 cups)
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley,
trimmed and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
3 small Italian green peppers, seeded and cut in half
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Peel off half the eggplant skin on each eggplant in alternating lengthwise strips to create a striped effect-but leave the stems intact. Make a deep slit lengthwise along the center of each eggplant; do not cut all the way through or all the way to the ends. Place the eggplants in a bowl, sprinkle them generously with salt, and cover them with cold water. Let the eggplants soak for about 20 minutes.
Heat 1/2 cup of the virgin olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the onion, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir the mixture well. Lower the heat, cover the skillet, and simmer for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened but not brown. Uncover the skillet and let the mixture cool.
Rinse the eggplants under cold running water. Gently squeeze out the excess water and pat the eggplants dry with paper towels.
Heat 1 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil in another deep skillet. Fry the eggplants until they're lightly browned on both sides, then remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Add the green peppers to the pan and fry them for about 2 minutes.
Place the eggplants side by side in a baking dish, open-side up. Sprinkle the insides of each eggplant with salt, then stuff each one with the onion mixture. Lay half a green pepper on top of each eggplant. Pour over 1/2 cup cold water and the remaining virgin olive oil. Cover the eggplant and peppers with parchment paper and bake for about 40 minutes. Let the dish cool, and serve at room temperature.
The Sultan's Kitchen
By Ozcan Ozan
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
This page created October 1999
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