Posted by greekfarm / RECIPES / 0 Comments
RECIPE BY caruso.gr
For me, imam bayildi is "the most summer ladera dish" (vegetables cooked in an olive oil-based sauce) among all the dishes of our traditional cuisine. Even more than gemista. For me it is a delicious dish with intense flavor, character and moreish factor (moreish = you want more, that is, no matter how much you eat, you want more)! Until you faint and take a siesta.
“The dish has a sweet bitter taste of eggplant of Tsakoniki variety, combined with the blatant audacity of onions and complementary flavors of tomatoes, dill and cheese. The catalyst of all these ingredients is the olive oil. Imam is a very Mediterranean dish!”
As its name suggests, the dish İmam bayıldı has Turkish roots and derives from a tale of an imam who swooned.
This tale has three versions, the most famous of which is that the imam swooned with pleasure at the flavor of this dish. You will faint too.
The second, somewhat sarcastic, version is that an imam fainted upon hearing the cost of cooking this olive oil-based dish.
The third less known version is based on a story in which one gourmet imam married the spoiled daughter of a wealthy merchant. Her dowry consisted of twelve jars of the finest and the most expensive olive oil. The first day the young wife prepared the stuffed eggplants with onions and tomatoes for dinner (they did not have their own name then), and imam was very excited about them. Therefore, the same dinner was served the next day and on the third day, and so 12 days in a row. However, on the thirteenth day, there was no eggplant dish at the table. When the imam asked what happened, he was informed that there was no more olive oil for cooking!
The imam fainted... he could no longer enjoy his favorite dish and after 12 days, his dowry was gone. Nevertheless, it was recognized as the greatest and unforgettable dish!
“However, the dish imam bayıldı with similar names and method of cooking is spread all over the eastern Mediterranean.”
I offer a family recipe with Izmir roots, without garlic, expressing the taste preferences of a family that used to cook traditional dishes in their very light and delicate form. That is why they satisfy our modern tastes.
My grandmother and my mother always cooked imam exclusively with yellow cheese. However, as tasty alternative, I also suggest you use feta.
Features of the recipe:
This recipe is quite simple. It will take you around 45 min. for preparation and other 45 min. for baking in the oven. Imam is not and cannot be a light dish, because, in addition to fried eggplants and onions, it contains a large amount of olive oil, which is gradually absorbed during baking in the oven. However, it is a delicious, very Mediterranean and the most summerish dish.
It's much tastier the next day after cooking, eaten at room temperature or slightly warmed in the oven.
For the filling, you can use either yellow cheese or feta cheese. They both match but, of course, the taste of the dish will be different. If you prefer yellow cheese, choose one of those that are easy to melt, for example, Graviera or Kasseri. Do not choose a hard and salty cheese such as regato etc.
Ingredients for 4 persons
8 eggplants of Tsakoniki variety
4-5 sliced medium onions
4 tablespoons of dill, finely chopped
250 g of grated tomatoes
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
70 g of grated sweet cheese graviera of Crete or Kasseri, or 70 g of feta
1 tablespoon of sugar
200 ml of refined olive oil for frying
150-200 ml of extra virgin olive oil
Additionally: 2 cloves of garlic, mashed for the filling (step 5)
1. Prepare the eggplants. Trim the stems and make 3 parallel longitudinal cuts, as shown in the photo. Currently available varieties of eggplants usually do not require the removal of bitterness with the help of salt. If you still think that it is necessary, add salt into cuts and leave the eggplants for an hour in order to remove the nicotine, which produces the bitter taste. Then rinse with water and dry to avoid oil splashing during frying.
2. Prepare the onions. Peel onions using a simple method, I recently discovered. Cut each onion into quarters, without removing the husk. Remove a part of the root and peel each quarter. Cut into slices.
3. Frying of eggplants. In a large pan, heat the olive oil for frying, with the help of tweezers place the eggplants with the cuts downwards. Be careful not to cause oil splashes. After 3-4 minutes, turn the eggplants to fry the other side. After another 3 minutes press them slightly with tweezers to make sure that they are withered (i.e. they become flat if you press). If they are still uncooked and inflated, turn them with the open side again and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Place the fried eggplants on the baking tray covered with kitchen paper, with the open side down to absorb as much olive oil as possible. Repeat this process with the remaining eggplants.
4. Sauting of onions (you can do it at the same time with frying eggplants). In another pan, heat up over medium heat a small amount of olive oil. Add onions and sugar, stir well. Once onions are sauteed, reduce heat and cook for at least 20-30 minutes or, at least, during the whole period of frying eggplants.
TIP: The longer you fry the onions over low heat, the tastier they will be, because in about an hour, the water gradually starts evaporating and the caramelization process begins when the sugar is formed. However, the onions should not be completely dehydrated for imam, as they will be baked in the oven after that. Therefore, half an hour is more than enough time for sauting tasty onions.
5. Completion of the filling preparation. Add tomato sauce and one tablespoon of tomato paste to the sauteed onions, increase the temperature and stir. Then add the parsley, salt and pepper, stir and fry for 3-4 minutes to absorb the liquid.
Remove the filling from the heat and let it cool down a bit, in order to make stuffing of the eggplants easier. In the meanwhile, grate the cheese.
6. Preparation of imam for baking in the oven. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Choose an appropriate pan where you can place all eggplants, but at the same time, do not leave a lot of empty space, so you do not have to use a lot of olive oil for baking. Place the eggplants on a baking tray with the open side upwards and make their cuts bigger to maximize the surface for the filling. With the help of a spoon, stuff all eggplants with the filling and cover the top with the cheese (graviera / yellow cheese or feta). With the remaining two tablespoons of tomato paste, fill in the space between the eggplants to form the sauce and pour extra virgin olive oil. Place the imam in the oven.
7. Baking and cooling down. The imam will be ready in 45 min. of baking at 180C. Remove the baking tray from the oven and let it cool down to the room temperature (it is summer, so we are talking about 35C) or at least half an hour at a warm temperature before serving.
This dish is ideally served at room temperature, always accompanied by feta cheese and crispy bread. The Grimbergen Blonde beer with the taste of cloves and pineapple matches the sweet taste of the imam, and at the same time, smooths the feeling of oiliness, turning it into a summer delightful dainty.
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