On our recent trip to Greece, I got some more ammunition against my wife’s dislike of eggplant as she not only enjoyed eating the Imam but even ordered it for herself after trying mine earlier in the trip.
Of course, that just meant we had to try to recreate the dish at home. (I will state, by the way, that despite her always saying how much she dislikes eggplant, she always enjoys the dishes I make with it, so I think the statement is unfounded.)
Imam was originally a Turkish dish that was adopted by the Greeks. The full name is actually Ιμάμ Μπαϊλντί (Imam Baildi or Imam Bayildi), and there are a few stories about a fainting priest that gives it its name. Some say he fainted when he saw how much olive oil was used, and others claim he fainted at the wonderful taste.
Either way, our Imam didn’t taste like what we had in Greece. It tasted very good, and I’ll make it again, but wasn’t exactly the same thing. I cooked it the same way I always try something new…we found a few recipes online, I read them over, and then I went and tried what I could to see what would come out based on the general trends in the different recipes.
Here is how I prepared it:
- 2 Eggplants
- 2 Tomatoes
- 3 Cloves of Garlin
- 1 Onion
- A little Salt
- A fair bit of Oregano & Thyme
- More Olive Oil than anybody should consume in one sitting
- Chop the stems off of the eggplants, cut in half lengthwise, and slice a flat spot onto the rounded (skin) side of each half. Slit the eggplant lengthwise without breaking the skin on the bottom. Sprinkle the flesh side of the eggplant in salt and put them aside in a colander to let the juices drain out a bit.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees (approximately – I put ours at 400 which is probably about 350 in other ovens.) Chop the garlic, tomatoes and onion. Preheat some olive oil in a skillet.
- After the eggplants have been sitting aside for 15-20 minutes (longer if you plan ahead, 30 minutes is how long I usually leave the eggplant to drain but I was hungry tonight) put them in the skillet flesh side down until they are a golden brown, which should take 4 or 5 minutes. Put them aside on a paper towel to drain.
- Put some more olive oil in the skillet, and add the onions, then the garlic, then the tomatoes. Don’t let them burn, stir regularly, and mix in the seasonings. Stir regularly but otherwise keep it covered. Get a baking dish prepared and cover the bottom with water – our 9×13 dish needed 1/3 to 1/2 of a cup.
- Put the eggplant in the baking dish skin side down, add a little more olive oil, and then coat with the tomato/garlic sauce. Cover and bake for 45 or 50 minutes.