Food & dining

Recipe: The classic Turkish stuffed eggplant can be part of a mezze platter or a vegetarian entree

Turkish stuffed eggplant (imam bayildi)
Sheryl Julian for The Boston Globe
Turkish stuffed eggplant (imam bayildi)

Serves 12 as an appetizer or side dish, 6 as a main course

Imam bayildi (EE-mahm BYE-yel-deh) is a classic Turkish recipe, although variations are found throughout the Mediterranean, Balkans, and Middle East. The name translates as “the imam fainted,” but foodlore is unclear whether the imam swooned with pleasure over the taste, or with horror over the cost of the olive oil needed to make it (some versions use a substantial amount). Here, halve and hollow small eggplants, bake the empty shells while you simmer the flesh with tomatoes and onions, then stir in plenty of parsley and mint. Fill the halves and return them to the oven. Imam bayildi is traditionally served at room temperature or chilled, as a main course or part of a mezze platter.

6small (4- or 5-inch) eggplants
6tablespoons olive oil
1large sweet onion (Vidalia, OSO Sweet, or another variety), chopped
3cloves garlic, finely chopped
4plum tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
cup chopped fresh parsley
¼cup chopped fresh mint
3tablespoons lemon juice
2teaspoons sugar
Extra fresh parsley leaves, chopped (for garnish)
Extra fresh mint leaves (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Halve the eggplants lengthwise. With the tip of a paring knife, make an oval cut inside the edge of the eggplant flesh. Use a spoon to scoop out two thirds of the flesh from each eggplant and transfer to a bowl.

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3. Set the halves on the baking sheet. Brush them with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake them for 35 minutes, or until the edges are brown.

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4. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees.

5. Chop the eggplant flesh; set aside.

6. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until it softens.

7. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, chopped eggplant, salt, and pepper. Turn up the heat and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until the liquid evaporates. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and mint.

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8. Fill each eggplant with the tomato mixture.

9. In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice, sugar, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle the mixture over the eggplants.

10. Bake the eggplants for 40 to 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbling at the edges and the eggplants are tender when pierced with a skewer. Cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with parsley and mint leaves.

Jill Gibson

Jill Gibson can be reached at jrgibson22@gmail.com.