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Stuffed Eggplants And Fried Vegetables Verrine

Aug 24, 2011

İmambayildi
To me, the scent of summer is about the smell of eggplants, courgettes, peppers and potatoes frying in the kitchen while I’m playing backgammon with my dad at the back patio, in our house in Çeşme. The ripest of season's tomatoes are simmering on the next stove to top the fried vegetables and with yogurt they will be assembled into one of the most tempting dishes of summer: şakşuka.* And if it is our lucky day, they will be crowned with mom's inimitable meatballs.

Each time we are united around this bowl of şakşuka, one of us has to mention the fact that fried food is detrimental to our health. Mom being mom, comforts us by saying "we eat it only once in a while so no worries!" and grandpa who is obsessed with eating healthy seeks to earn bravos by having the smallest portion despite his weakness for fried food. I could never care less about my health when I'm eating something as irresistible as this and even less if it is vegetarian. Plus, I take comfort in the fact that I’m the youngest in the family and there are years before I start worrying about cholesterol.

saksukapreparing "şakşuka"

But there is no fun in frying vegetables when I am home alone in Istanbul with only one other person to enjoy it with, instead of the whole family. Plus, there is the summer heat; standing by the hot stove, pan-frying doesn't make it any cooler. When I called my mother to check with her if oven-roasting would not ruin the joy of eating the “unhealthy” verrine, that reminded her that they haven’t eaten it once this year. Yet. Not having eaten şakşuka through mid-summer made me think that they were being deprived of the enchanting summer spirit. I sensed that in my absence, the elderly in the family, most probably my grandpa, kept vetoing fried vegetables. A fresh blood had to intervene and that would be me.

I went to Çeşme because duty called but I ate more than I was aiming for. I took photographs of some of the classic things we always eat there, along with the extra-large family size fried vegetables I've been talking about, which I will proudly present in my upcoming post. For now, just indulge yourselves with the photos of the family-for-two size of şakşuka, served in individual cups, suitable for a lonely city couple like us: in a presentation my mom dismissed as fairly extravagant; a typical taurus who hates innovation. 

Patlicanlarmini aubergines

In food magazines such as Delicious and Elle à Table, I've been seeing an advertorial about our sumptuous Turkish cuisine, with a picture of karniyarik, split eggplant stuffed with minced meat, in the foreground. (Not the most inviting picture of the dish I must say.) Realising that it became the brand ambassador of Turkish cuisine, I now expect that karniyarik maybe known to more people than I think. Just by the look of it, you might think that imambayildi I present here is just a vegetarian take on karniyarik. But that would be a huge underestimation. Let me explain it this way: imambayildi, roughly translated "the imam who fainted", is named after an imam who allegedly fainted out of delight upon tasting this deliciousness. And that's exactly the kind of delicacy I'm talking about.

They are on the other hand, prepared in the same manner, striped, fried, stuffed and simmered, but unlike karniyarik, this is a light appetizer and is served with yogurt, chilled or lukewarm. Instead of pan-frying, try oven roasting them which will make them even lighter and healthier. Traditionally, large eggplants are used in this recipe but I recommend that you use tiny and prettier ones if you can find.

Oh I almost forgot: I hereby dedicate this post to my friend Revan, the eternal eggplant hater and kindly plead her to reconsider by trying my recipes.

*When vegetables are fried in cubes and assembled with yogurt and tomato sauce in a serving plate, the name şakşuka applies. If vegetables are fried in slices with yogurt and sauce are on the side, the taste will be similar but than it is just kizartma, meaning fried vegetables. So the name şakşuka is attributed to the construction, not the overall taste.

** The muslim worship leader

İmambayıldıMini imambayildis

İmambayıldı - Stuffed Aubergines In Olive Oil

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 small aubergines
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 handfuls of fresh mint leaves, minced
  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 220 C/430F. Line an oven tray with grease proof paper.
  2. Peel eggplants in stripes and leave their stalks intact. Wash and dry them with a paper towel. Incise them in their middle lengthwise but keep them in wholes. Brush each with a tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and place on the oven tray. Roast them for about 30 minutes or until they turn color and are softened.
  3. Prepare the stuffing while aubergines are in the oven. In a sauté pan, sauté onions and garlic with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and season with salt. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove from heat.
  4. Split the roasted aubergines open with the help of a spoon. Fill them with the tomato filling and place them in the sauté pan. Drizzle them with a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/3 cup warm water. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to minimum. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer imambayildis to a serving dish and serve lukewarm or chilled, with yogurt.

Fried Vegetables Verrine

Ingredients:

    aubergines, zucchinis, potatoes, green peppers in quantities you prefer:

  • aubergines, peeled in stripes and cubed
  • zucchinis, skins peeled of with a serrated knife and cubed
  • potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • green peppers
  • For the sauce:

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced and 2 cloves for the yogurt, crushed
  • virgin and extra virgin olive oil
  • as much yogurt as you like

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 C /430 F. Line an oven tray with grease proof paper.
  2. Place all the cubed vegetables in a large bowl, season with salt and add 4 tablespoons of virgin olive oil. Give them a toss and make sure you coat every piece with olive oil.
  3. Spread vegetables onto the oven tray. Place peppers on sides. Roast vegetables for 25-30 minutes until they are nicely browned. Flip green peppers in half time.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the sauce and the yogurt. In a sauté pan, sauté garlic briefly with 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add tomatoes, season and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Combine yogurt and garlic in a bowl and whisk to obtain a creamy texture.
  6. Peel off the peppers' skins and slice them in bite size pieces. Toss all vegetables in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of the tomato sauce.
  7. Lay fried vegetables in a flat serving dish. Spread yogurt on top, then the tomato sauce. (If you like to serve them in style, you can assemble these in individual cups, by repeating the following order twice: vegetables, yogurt and sauce.)
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