New Recipes: Fainting Imam

Your blog is usually the first thing that gets sacrificed on the altar of I-have-too-much-to-do.  Since nobody thinks that it is a serious commitment, it is quite hard to justify any priority you might want to give to a blog. And once the guilt subsides, days turn into weeks and it is remarkably easy to let it go.

I realized that I have been seriously neglecting this blog, to the point of abandonment. I decided that it was time to do a better job.

In recent months, I tried a couple of new things. Some entailed a few modifications I brought to traditional recipes, others consisted of trying some dished I saw on cookery shows.

Stuffed Aubergines: Imam Has Fainted

This is a vegetarian dish and you can find it in Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisines. It is usually called "Imam bayildi" which means (figuratively) Imam was ecstatic or (literally) Imam has fainted.

The traditional recipe calls for stuffing several large eggplants with a previously sauteed mixture of onions, garlic, diced tomatoes and parsley (many restaurants will add chopped green pepper to that as well just to give texture). The finished dish is served cold and looks like this. You can find the traditional recipe here.

When I was vegetarian, I made this dish many times but it always struck me as a bit pedestrian from a flavor perspective. People always asked for half of an eggplant as the whole thing looked like too much. And you could tell that they did not enjoy it a lot as the primary flavors were just cooked onions and garlic. The aubergine did not add much to the dish.

So I decided to try a new version. 

For this recipe, I used small eggplants you find in most Asian grocery stores. Their seeds are much smaller and they seem to have a better taste than the super market variety. Plus, people like their small size. I peeled the skin lengthwise to let the eggplant absorb flavors. 

I made a small pouch by removing some of the flesh from the middle of the eggplant. Like so:

The I fried the eggplants lightly for 3-4 minutes just enough to give them a brownish color and to give them a different layer of flavor.

The finished aubergines should look like this:

I sauteed some diced onions until translucent and added some tomato coulis and cooked the eggplants in that mixture for 15-20 minutes.

In a separate pan I sauteed onion half rings I sliced earlier. Actually sauteing is the wrong term, you need to confit them, meaning, you cook them slowly over low temperature, preferably with the lid on. They need to be very soft and sweet so caramelize them for 25 minutes or so.  (Subsequently I used shallots rings and they made it even nicer as it is much easier to confit them)

At the same time, I baked garlic cloves in the oven for about 45 minutes or until they were very tender and sweet. I have a clay pot for that but you can simply wrap them in aluminum foil with some olive oil to get the same result.

I chopped up some cherry tomatoes and some parsley for garnish.

I removed the eggplants from their pot, let them cool a bit. Wiped the tomato coulis off their skins. I added the tender garlic cloves, caramelized onions and topped the whole thing with uncooked cherry tomatoes and parsley.

This is how they looked before parsley.

It took probably twice as long to prepare them like this but according to my guests, the dish finally had several layers of flavor.

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