Imam Bayildi (aka The Imam Fainted)
While you may not know exactly what a fainted imam might have to do with much of anything (I don’t either), you can probably guess it has to do with eggplant, if you’ve looked at the above photo. I’ll get to that later…
Last Friday I was sitting on the couch, looking through cookbooks trying to decide what recipes to make so I could get all my produce at the farmers market the next day. I couldn’t think of a single thing I felt like making, so I decided I’d go to the market and just buy what looked good/pretty. This meant I ended up buying loads of eggplant and lots of heirloom tomatoes.
Here’s a little background info so this all makes sense: before we even started living together, the boyf had taken to saving all the Wednesday food sections of the Washington Post. He saved all the stuff he thought looked good, including an interesting feature on different, easy sauces to go with different shapes of pasta (that I unfortunately can’t find a link to) and an entire like 2 pages devoted to eggplant recipes. When he told me about the eggplant, I immediately said that I don’t like eggplant and will never cook with it again. It’s true: I think it stems from my childhood in Pohnpei where eggplants grew like weeds. I was only like seven years old, but I remember my mom pawning the eggplant off on the neighbors. At that point it must have been instilled in me that eggplant is something you try to get rid of. Anywho, the boy was crestfallen, but that didn’t change things.
So when I was at the farmers market, taking the eggplant to the register I kept thinking “What am I doing? I don’t even like this crap.” I got home, showed the pretty eggplant to the boyf (yes, I bought it because it was pretty and came in a number of colors: purple, dark purple and white) and we decided to turn to the Washington Post. All the recipes looked gross to me, except the recipe for The Imam Fainted. Eggplant essentially roasted with tomatoes, onions and garlic? Sounds good to me. Plus I’d picked up some heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market that I had yet to do anything with, so I was good to go.
Heirloom tomatoes are hard for me to resist– I’m one of those people that eats with their eyes first and if something looks pretty, I’m in. Plus, all the heirlooms I’ve bought from the Del Ray farmers market have been fantastic. Last Wednesday The Washington Post published an interesting/entertaining editorial on the virtues (or lack thereof) of heirloom tomatoes. While Ms. Black does make many interesting points, I would like to issue a rebuttal: Buy your heirlooms from a more reputable source (like a farm that provides samples). Come shop at the Del Ray farmers market and you’ll get fantastic heirloom tomatoes, and then you can stop complaining.
At any rate, I actually really liked how this recipe turned out. The eggplant was moist and all the flavors had melded really well. Perhaps it was even enough to make me quasi-like eggplant… The boyf was like “I think mine’s a little mushy,” but if you put anything in the oven for over an hour and half, it’ll get mushy. So I guess if you’re not a fan of “mushy” this isn’t for you, but otherwise you should definitely give this one a shot, even if you don’t like eggplant 🙂
After 1 hour and 40 minutes in the oven (and bad artificial light)
Imam Bayildi (The Imam Fainted)
(Courtesy of The Washington Post)
- 2 large eggplants (about 2 3/4 pounds total)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 to 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 1 3/4 cups)
- 3 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, or more to taste
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 medium lemon, cut into quarters, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Placing them flesh side up, make several diagonal slashes in the flesh without piercing the skin. Lightly season with salt.
Combine the onion, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, salt to taste and about half of the oil in a medium bowl; mix well.
Place the eggplant halves in a roasting pan, flesh side up. Divide the vegetable mixture evenly among them, using it to cover the eggplant flesh completely. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour. Remove from the oven; lightly shake each half so the vegetable mixture settles into the slashed flesh.
Combine the remaining oil and the sugar; pour it over the eggplant halves. Cover and return to the oven; bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the eggplants have softened and started to collapse.
Before serving, spoon over any oil that has collected in the pan.
Serve hot, with lemon quarters on the side.