For the eggplants it is best to select small ones as fresh as you can find preferably at a Farmers Market. The reason for this is that the young fresh ones have much less bitterness because of their very small seeds. The perfect eggplants are about lemon-size. If you can find these, simply use them whole, slit before the first roasting. If they are orange- or small grapefruit size, cut them in half lengthwise (through the stems), and slit them before roasting. One of the things I like best about this dish is that it is great at room temperature, and mixes well with easy do-ahead summer salads. I served it with this chard strata, rainbow carrot salad, roasted multicolor cauliflower and a watermelon and feta salad.
- 4 small eggplants cut in half lengthwise (or see note above)
- 1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced thinly
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds (3 large or 6 medium) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Optional: a dollop before serving is great!
- 1 cup labne or Greek yoghurt mixed with grated garlic and chopped dill
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and brush with olive oil. Slit the eggplants down the middle, being careful not to cut through the skin. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until the outer skin begins to shrivel. Remove from the oven and transfer, cut side down, to a colander set in the sink. Allow to drain for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, lidded skillet and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are very tender, 5 to 8 minutes, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to a minute, until fragrant. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt to taste and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil.
3. Turn the eggplants over and place in the pan, cut side up. Season with salt. Fill with the onion and tomato mixture. Mix together the remaining olive oil, the remaining sugar, the water and the lemon juice. Drizzle over and around the eggplants. Cover the pan and place over low heat. Cook gently for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, checking the pan for liquid and basting from time to time with the liquid in the pan, and adding water to the pan if it becomes too dry. By the end of cooking the eggplants should be practically flat and the liquid in the pan slightly caramelized. Spoon this juice over the eggplant. Allow to cool in the pan, and serve at room temperature.
Yield: Serves 4
Advance preparation: You can roast the eggplant through Step 1 and make the filling through Step 2 several hours before assembling and cooking the imam bayildi. Once cooked, the finished dish can sit for several hours.