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Imam bayildi

This famous Turkish dish is served as a meze. Conflicting stories are told about the origin of its name, which means “the Imam Fainted.” Some say it came about when an imam fainted with pleasure on being served it by his wife. Others believe that the Imam fainted when he heard how expensive the ingredients were, and how much olive oil had gone into the making. This dish is part of the range of zeytinyagli (cooked in olive oil) dishes Turkey is famous for. It can be cooked in a saucepan or in the oven.
Adapted from Little Foods of the Mediterranean by Clifford A. Wright


•  4 Italian eggplants (about 10 oz each) halved lengthwise

•  Salt

•  10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

•  2 medium size onions, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced

•  6 large garlic cloves, chopped

•  ½ pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

•  ¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves

•  2 tablespoons pepper

•  1 tablespoon cumin

•  1 tablespoon tomato paste

•  2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

•  2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (optional)

•  1 teaspoon sugar

•  2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

•  ¼ cup water



  1. Cut off the stem portion of the eggplants. Make a deep lengthwise slit along the flesh side of the eggplant, making sure you don't puncture the skin. Cut a very small portion of the skin side of the eggplant to make a flat section so the eggplant can sit correctly in the skillet later.

  2. In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil over high heat and at the first wisps of smoke, fry the eggplant, flesh side down, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from the skillet to drain on some paper towels.

  3. In the same skillet you cooked the eggplant, add the remaining oil and heat over medium-high heat, then cook the onion and garlic until soft and yellow, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn't burn. Transfer the onions to a medium-size bowl and mix well with the tomatoes, parsley, dill, basil (if using), sugar, salt to taste, and a few tablespoons of the cooking oil.

  4. Arrange the eggplant halves in a large skillet or casserole with the slit side up. Gently open the slit so that they can accommodate as much of the stuffing as possible. Season the eggplant with salt, then stuff each one so that the stuffing fills the slits and is spread to cover all the flesh. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the eggplant. Pour any remaining sauce or juices, along with the water, into the skillet, cover, and cook over low heat until the eggplant is soft, about 50 minutes, adding water to the skillet if it is getting too dry.

  5. Let the eggplants cool in the skillet and serve whole at room temperature.

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