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Turkish Imam Bayıldı

Here is a recipe that I use for one of my favorite Turkish dishes: Imam Bayıldı (The Imam Fainted). I have been making this dish for at least ten years, and it never fails to delight. The beginning text gives the origins of the dish. Try the modification that I included at the end of the recipe.

The Origin of Imam Bayıldı

There are many stories about the origin of the name of this dish. One of them we heard while visiting Ankara, Turkey’s capital. A long time ago, a Turkish Imam (Mohammedan priest), known for his love of good food, surprised his friends by announcing his engagement to the young daughter of a wealthy olive-oil merchant. The friends did not know about her ability to cook, but they presumed part of her dowry would include olive oil.

They were right. For her father gave the groom twelve jars, each one large enough to hold a person, of the precious oil. After her marriage, the bride proved to be an excellent cook and each day prepared a special dish for her epicurean husband. One of them, eggplant cooked in olive oil, became his favorite. And he ordered that his wife prepare it each night for dinner. This she did for twelve consecutive days. On the thirteenth, however, the dish was missing from the meal. Queried about its absence, the bride replied, “Dear husband, I do not have any more olive oil. You will have to purchase some more for me.” The Imam was so shocked that he fainted. And since that day, according to the story, his favorite dish has been known as Imam Bayıldı, The Imam Fainted.

Imam Bayıldı Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Onion Mixture: Saute the onions in a little olive oil. Add the garlic, tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook until the mixture is mushy.
  2. Prepare the Eggplants: Cut the stem ends from each eggplant. Make 3 lengthwise slits, almost from end to end. Hold each slit apart and spoon the onion mixture into each cavity.
  3. Arrange and Season: Arrange the eggplants in a baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of olive oil.
  4. Bake: Cover the dish and bake in a preheated moderate oven (350°F) for 40 minutes, or until tender.
  5. Serve: Serve hot, or as they do in Turkey, cold with yogurt. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Modification

Instead of making three slits in the eggplants, hollow them out but leave a firm outer edge. Take the insides of the eggplants, chop them up, and toss them into the pan with the other sautéed ingredients. Sauté the new mixture, then stuff the eggplants with that mixture. If you want to microwave, cook for 15 to 20 minutes on medium. After 15 minutes, baste the eggplants with the liquid at the bottom of the dish and then cook for the remaining 5 minutes at high. You can tell by looking when the outer edge is done. Slice for serving.

Note from your editor: We use Japanese eggplants here on the West Coast of the United States. They are excellent in taste. Since they are very small, there is usually nothing to take from the inside of this variety. So skip the modification if you use the Japanese variety.

By the way, any more recipes out there? Maybe we should collect some and publish the “TRKNWS-L Weekend Cooker” … (“Cooker” is the word a friend of mine used to use for a “cook” when he was learning English).

Published on: 23 Jul 94

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