Imam Baildi are stuffed eggplants. This is a vegetarian dish and it falls into the category of Greek cooking called “ladera” or lathera. Ladera dishes were born out of necessity, peasant families stretching-out food to feed families with what was fresh and what was seasonal.
Ladera comes from the Greek word for oil, lathi and when in Greece, an array of these vegetarian dishes can be found at a “Magereio” where there’s an open kitchen with a display of day’s specials.
Imam Baildi will be one of those specials you find at a Magereio. It has become a Greek specialty but it’s origins are definitely Turkish. Imam is the Turkish word for Priest and the story behind Imam Baildi is that the Priest fainted at the sight of the quantity of oil used in the dish.
Many Greek dishes have been toned down with respect to the amount of oil used in cooking. Here, I’veÂ trimmed the amount of oil used and Ive bypassed the usual frying of the eggplant shells but I’ve maintained all the flavour and integrity of the dish.
Greek cuisine is loaded with delicious “ladera” dishes that can act as side dishes or main courses. Imam Baildi is as good of a dish to start out with.
Imam Baildi (Ιμάμ-Μπαϊλντί )
6 medium-sized eggplants
1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 medium onions, sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded & sliced
1 can (375ml) of good plum tomatoes, hand crushed
2 tsp. of dried Greek oregano
1 tsp. of fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
10 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
5-6 whole allspice berries (bouquet garni)
salt and pepper to taste
thin slices of fresh tomatoes and onions
extra-virgin olive oil for finishing
Pre-heated 400 F oven
- Remove the stems of the eggplants and half lengthwise. Score the inside using your knife (without cutting through the skins) to make a criss-cross pattern.
- Drizzle the eggplant halves with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt. Place facedown in a parchment-lined baking sheet in a preheated 400F oven (middle rack) for 30 minutes or until just soft to the touch. Reserve.
- In the meantime, in a large skillet, add your olive oil over medium high heat and then add your onions, peppers, tomatoes and bouquet garni of allspice then reduce to medium and cover. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until most of the liquid has cooked down. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove the bouquet garni of allspice and add the slices of garlic and chopped parsley.
- Place your inverted eggplant shells upright into a shallow baking vessel side-by-side and use the underside of a ladle to press down into each eggplant to make a cradle. Spoon the filling into the eggplant.
- Cover each eggplant with tomato slices and sliced onions, drizzle your eggplants with some olive oil and bake in your pre-heated oven for 45-60 minutes or until most of the water has cooked off and your topping is a nice golden-brown.
- Drizzle each serving with some extra-virgin olive oil and serve with some good crusty bread and a side of Feta cheese.
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