One of the few good things about living in a place with ridiculously hot summers is that the growing season for summer vegetables lasts a good, long time. The latest I ever pulled eggplant from the garden or tomatoes off the vine was a couple of days before Thanksgiving. The plants may not be in full production mode this late in the year, but there’s still enough to do something with.
I have found that my tastes for vegetables change with the seasons. I have no desire to eat a butternut squash in August, or a cold salad in January. Heat loving tomatoes and eggplant ripen around the same time, and what do you know, happen to taste amazingly great together. Baked together, they create a meal that is light enough for hot summer evenings, yet hearty enough to transition into cooler autumn nights.
Sadly, my vegetable beds didn’t get going in time for summer this year. I managed to snag several eggplants from my parents’ garden while they were out of town, but that was about it. Fortunately, there are several farmer’s markets in town to help fill in the gaps.
This dish is a simpler variation of a traditional recipe from Asia Minor called Imam Bayildi, which is eggplant stuffed and roasted with tomatoes and onions. I know a lot recipes call for the eggplant to be salted and drained since they can be rather watery when cooked, but I’m not a big fan on the end result of this method. It seems to lead to a slimy texture that leaves much to be desired. Not only that but it adds quite a bit of preparation time. There is no need to do this with this method. Yay!
Recipe for Imam Bayaldi
- 1 1/2 lbs. sliced eggplant, any variety
- 1 1/2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice)
- 1 15 oz. can tomato puree or sauce
- 1 lb. yellow onion, sliced (get one of these, make life easier!)
- 4-5 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 lb. parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup red wine (I like a cheap burgundy)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling baking pan
- crumbled feta
Preheat oven to 425 F. Generously oil pan, lay eggplant slices down and allow to soak up some of the oil. Flip the eggplant after the oil is soaked up and add more oil to allow the other side to soak in the oil, as well. Yes, more oil.
Put all remaining ingredients except feta into a large bowl and mix together. Spoon out the mixture over the eggplant slices and smooth out the top.
Bake uncovered at 425 F for 30 minutes. Quickly remove from oven and smooth over the surface with the back of a large spoon to make sure the parsley near the surface doesn’t get burned. Return back to the oven for another 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven again. Sprinkle the top with the crumbled feta cheese and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool a little before serving. Tastes fantastic with a slice of hearty bread like my whole-wheat sourdough bread. Enjoy!