Imam Bayildi - "The Imam Fainted"
The name of this tasty, exotic Turkish dish, imam bayildi, translates as "the imam fainted.*" If, like me, you can't visit the local greengrocer without buying a big, shiny black eggplant but then don't know what to do with it, you'll love this.
1 large eggplant* The origins of the name are shrouded in history, but legend says that long ago a Muslim holy man, the imam, tasted this dish and fainted to the ground from sheer delight. Either that was some eggplant, or delights must have been in short supply back then. Anyhow, this stuff is very tasty, and the quantities here serve 2 as dinner, 4 as an appetizer - feel free to double or triple amounts as needed.
1 T sea salt
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green pepper diced
3 roma tomatoes diced
1 large onion diced
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper
dash turmeric, oregano and crushed red pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
First, cut off the stem, and slice the eggplant in half lengthwise. Make several deep slashes in the cut surfaces of both halves, but be careful not to cut through the skin on the other side. Sprinkle sea salt on both cut halves and place the eggplant pieces face down in a colander in the sink for one hour; this will drain out the bitter juices. Rinse in water throughly to remove excess salt, and pat dry with a paper towel. Then, fry the eggplant halves face-down in a heavy pan for about five minutes in the olive oil, until the surfaces turn slightly brown. Remove the eggplant, and place face-up in an ovenproof shallow baking dish.
Next, saute the onions, green pepper, tomatoes and garlic in the same pan in the remaining olive oil for 5-10 minutes until softened. Add the remaining spices and sugar, cook for 5 minutes longer. Adjust salt and seasonings to taste. Place one half of this mixture on each eggplant half, and bake for 30 minutes at 400°F. Remove from oven, and allow to cool to room temperature. Scoop the imam bayildi directly out of the eggplant shells at the table, and serve with pita wedges or French baguettes.