Eggplants Are Cool Again

Have you stepped outside lately? Though the weather teased us with lower temperatures for a couple days, it might be back to 90s again for a while! I am growing tired of long, humid days with skin crumbling heat, missing my turtlenecks and thinking that moving to Vermont might be in the cards for me.

However this heat is not keeping us away from the grill at all! Despite the horrible hot days, we have been burying our faces in the grill, pulling out some dangerous looking skewers and offering our guests some mighty lamb kebabs. Because come December, we do not want to utter the words “wish we had used the grill more this summer.”

The kebabs are the only hot things on the table! They are surrounded by the cold, garlicky vegetable sides.You take a bite, and that bite cools everything it touches all the way down to your stomach, just like a scoop of ice cream on a cake would do. These vegetable dishes balance the heat with their flavor and lighten things up a bit on the plate.

I am sharing my two summer favorites: An eggplant dip and a traditional Turkish eggplant dish, called ‘Imam Fainted.’ (Read more and recipes below.)

Yes…You read it right! Sometime, somewhere an Imam fainted after eating this dish. There is a rumor that the dish got its name after an Imam took a bite and fainted because the dish was so overwhelmingly tasty. Another rumor has it that the penny pinching Imam fainted after he saw the amount of garlic and onion went into the dish! I would like to think the first rumor is true. It is a tad time consuming: fry the eggplants, make the filling, stuff the eggplants, bake them again. But once it is cool and refrigerated, it is a great vegetarian side dish, bursting with flavor. For this dish, long purple Chinese eggplants are the best.

If there are only big, plump eggplants around, then eggplant dip is the best appetizer/side dish to make. I like using the grill to roast eggplants when it is too hot to turn the oven on in the house. After the eggplant turns into a mush in a bowl, add yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and some parsley! You have an instant cold side dish or dip to serve.

Enjoy your hot summer nights and cool eggplants!

Imambayildi (Turkish Vegetarian Eggplant Dish)

  • 4 long, purple eggplants
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil for frying the eggplants
  • 1/3 cups of olive oil
  • 12 large whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 large onion, very thin (paper thin) slices in half moon shape (2 cups)
  • 2 sweet cubanelle pepper, very thinly sliced
  • 1 large tomato (finely diced)
  • 1 cup of chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large tomato (grated)

1. Peel the eggplants in stripes, salt them generously, set aside for 45 min.Don’t chop the tops off. Instead you can cut the extra leafy part around the stem with kitchen scissors if it is a lot but you do not have to.

2. Pour the 1/3 cups of olive oil in a deep saute pan, add onions, whole cloves of garlic, and cubanelle peppers. Saute them until onion is transparent. Stir frequently, don’t let the onions and garlic brown.

3. After onions are cooked, add finely diced tomatoes, chopped parsley, salt, pepper and sugar into the saute pan. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover and let it cool.

4. Wash the eggplants, dry.

5. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, fry the eggplants on each side until it is golden brown (1-2 min). Set the eggplants in a baking dish. Let it cool.

6. Slit an opening in the middle of the eggplant half way though. Don’t cut it all the way through the eggplant.  Make the opening little bigger with your fingers. You want it to look like a canoe.

7. Equally divide the filling among four eggplants. Stuff them well.

8. Pour the grated tomato into the baking pan, cover the pan with aluminum foil. Make several slits on the foil to let the steam escape.

9. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until the eggplants are cooked thoroughly.

____________________________________________________

Eggplant Salad

  • 8 small to medium size eggplants (depending on the size of the eggplants, it will be enough to fill approximately 1.5 quart dish)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons  yogurt (gradually add yogurt and taste after each addition to find your stopping point)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (if you can find, use Turkish red pepper “pul biber”)
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 450-degrees. Roast the eggplants as whole until they are done (this will vary based on the size, check after 1 hour).

2. Let them cool and scrape the inside into a bowl.

3. Combine everything except yogurt with the eggplant. Use a fork and knife to break the strands and create a puree. Start adding yogurt gradually, tasting after each addition. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

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3 Comments

Filed under Recipe, The Foodie's Garden

3 responses to “Eggplants Are Cool Again

  1. Danielle

    I love the story of the Imam Fainted recipe. I am trying to convince myself that it would be simple to prepare, because it looks fantastic! My favorite eggplant recipe this summer has been Sweet and Sour Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Chickpeas that I found at the New York Times — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/29/health/nutrition/29recipehealth.html

  2. Wonderful story! Let’s meet up soon for a fun food shopping expedition!

  3. Cat

    Great story. Thanks for a new way to use the eggplants and cubanelles from the backyard. I was in need of an aubergine revamp!

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