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Ìmam Bayıldı – California Style August 14, 2008

Posted by Paula Erbay in Main Dishes, Sides.
The Turkish dictionary defines bayılmak (root verb) as: to faint, to be enraptured (by). 

I’ve read many versions of how this Turkish dish got it’s name. The Imam fainted because… the dish was so rich (oil content); he learned the amount of olive oil his wife used to make the dish (rich in cost); or, it just tasted soooooo good. 

What makes the Imam faint in California? Grilling, of course. 

When the Google search string is Imam Bayildi Recipe, it will return over 22,000 hits. So, I decided to create a variation on a very classic Turkish recipe. Don’t worry, it still has all the ingredients required: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Eggplants, Onions, Garlic, Tomatoes and Parsley. I just took the eggplant outdoors to add a bit of smokiness.


4 Eggplants, long, thin
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Chili pepper, long hot
4 Tomatoes, just under 1 ½ pounds
1 Onion, Sweet (Vidalia, Oso Sweet, or similar)
5 Garlic cloves
2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 T Pine Nuts
1 C Parsley leaves, flat
2 tsp Dill, fresh or dried
1 tsp Aleppo Pepper – plus more at table
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Lemon Juice, plus wedges at table

Trim the cap end of the eggplants, but do not cut off. Peel the skin in a “zebra” stripe. Heavily salt and leave in a colander while preparing the other ingredients, about 20 minutes. 

Peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes. Thinly slice the onion and garlic cloves. Chop the parsley leaves. 

Rinse the eggplants and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a baking pan (Pyrex 9×13 is good). Coat with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, be generous – reserve all that drips in the baking pan. Grill the eggplants and chili pepper until eggplants are soft and browned, the pepper should blister. About 15 – 20 minutes total, turn often. Return the grilled eggplants and chili pepper to the baking pan (with leftover oil). 

Heat 2 tablespoons Olive Oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until onion is soft and translucent. Add the cooked onions and garlic to the chopped tomatoes. Brown the pine nuts in the same pan, until just starting to color. Add them to the tomato-onion mixture. Add the remaining ingredients: parsley, dill, Aleppo pepper, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. 

Slit the grilled eggplants lengthwise down the middle – be careful not to cut all the way through Larger eggplants can be cut in half, then slit each half lengthwise. Gently pry open the slit in each eggplant and fill with the tomato-onion mixture, heaping on top. 

Mix some lemon juice, water, and olive oil, pour into the baking pan (about 6 tablespoons of liquid). Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. 

Traditional Imam Bayildi is served room temperature (as all “Olive Oil” dishes are), I like this one hot as a vegetarian main course. Serve with lemon wedges and additional Aleppo Pepper for diners to adjust to taste. 

Aleppo pepper is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores and Penzeys.com 

This recipe is for Bette… read Eggplants for Bette





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