Imam Bayildi Vegetarian Eggplant Recipe
This dish literally means the priest fainted. Apparently when this dish was presented to the priest and he tasted it, he was so overcome with pleasure from the taste that he fainted. The name stuck and now it is a very popular vegetarian appetizer that can be eaten as a side dish to any protein. It is usually served room temperature or cold. All around the Middle East you will find this dish, from Greece to Jordan, to Armenia, to Lebanon and Syria. For all the eggplant lovers, this is your dish. I usually use the Italian long eggplant for this recipe but the traditional large, round eggplant works fine as well.
Imam Bayildi (Vegeterian Eggplant)
1 ½ lb eggplant
8 garlic cloves peeled
½ onion chopped fine
¼ cup of vegetable oil (or more if needed)
14 ounces can chopped tomatoes
1 green bell pepper sliced fine (optional)
1 tablespoon of pepper paste
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Wash the eggplant and peel in stripes, then cut in half lengthwise. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the eggplant until golden (about 6 minutes) on both sides. Add more oil if necessary. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel covered plate. In the same oil, sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and the pepper paste and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the bell peppers and eggplants. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes until eggplant is soft. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool and serve cold.
This is the traditional method of making Imam Bayildi. If you prefer a healthier version, you can brush the eggplant with olive oil and broil under the broiler until golden. Prepare the sauce on the sauce in the same method described above using only 2 tablespoons of oil to sauté the onions. Then pour the sauce over the eggplant and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.