Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sexy Summer Love - my new favourite recipe

So the vegetable garden is burgeoning and I have a problem - what are two people supposed to do with 8 really big eggplants? So I did a little research on the internet and found... heaven- but sexy heaven! Heaven in a roasting pan.

The dish is called Imam Bayildi, which is usually called in English "The Parson Fainted" - even though we all know that an "Imam" isn't the same thing as a "parson". Before I ate this dish, I was charmed by the three speculative reasons given for WHY the Imam fainted - was it because the dish was so delicious? was it because he found out how much olive oil was in it? was it because it looks like female genitalia?

I don't know where the female genitalia comparison comes from. There is really no resemblance, although my experience is that when things really, really taste good, people often think about sex.

There is a lot of olive oil (3/4 cup!), but that's not something you would know unless you made the dish yourself.

Its the deliciousness. Believe me when I tell you, the taste of the dish is utterly swoonish. It tastes like every good memory of summer you  ever had, flavoured with tarragon and a little lemon and waiting to be devoured. I suppose it would taste good with store bought vegetables, but there is something truly magic about eating food that you've grown yourself, every single ingredient at the peek of ripeness.

Here is the recipe, which (being me) I have modified slightly from that of Helen Sand - who I don't know, but wish I did - because she is a good cook:

  • 1-2 medium-size eggplants, sliced lengthwise in three
  • 5-6 roma tomatoes, whole (or 20 cherry tomatoes, or an equivalent some other tomatoes - whatever you have in your garden)
  • 2 medium-size onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 peppers (red, yellow) sliced lengthwise in 1/2-inch strips
  • About 10 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • several generous dashes of fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup olive oil for baking
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Garnishes: Chopped Fresh basil, thyme, and/or tarragon; pine nuts or saltless shelled sesame seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Pour 1/4 cup of olive oil in a frying pan, and fry (see steps 3,4,5) the vegetables one at a time, but removing each from the oil and then reusing the oil. Add up to another 1/4 cup oil as you go along if you need to. The eggplant soaks up a lot of oil.
  3. Fry the eggplant until golden on medium high. When golden, remove to a flat roasting pan or baking dish. It doesn't have to be cooked through - just browned on the outside.
  4. Fry the onion until translucent on medium. 
  5. Remove the stems from the tomatoes and fry them whole in the pan until the skin bursts (on high heat).
  6.  In a baking dish arrange the eggplant with the onion a on top and the tomatoes interspaced. Poke the tomatoes to make sure the juices will escape into the pan.  Sprinkle the garlic all over the dish. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper, and the water. 
  7. Add the ¼ cup of oil in dashes across the assembled dish.
  8.  Cover and bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until the eggplant is very soft when poked with a fork.
  9. Let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle your tarragon, basil and thyme, and nuts on  top of it and add another couple dashes of lemon.
I didn't expect to fall in love, so I didn't take a picture. I'll post one next time I make it. Jeff said I could make it every day if I wanted to, so I don't expect it to be very long!

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