The Overseas Women’s Club of Madras had published a cookery book in 1985 and called it Cook’s Tour. The book boasted of “Tried and True Recipes from the members of the Club.” The name of this recipe was intriguing and I tried it out. The taste was not as interesting as the name and I will not be eager to prepare it in the near future. The contributor, Bridget Burkart, tells a good story.
There are many stories about the origin of the name of the dish. One of them relates that a long time ago a Turkish Imam (Mohammedan Priest), known for his love of good food, surprised his friends by announcing his engagement to the young daughter of a wealthy olive-oil merchant. The friends did not know about her ability to cook. But they presumed part of her dowry would include olive oil. They were right. For her father gave the groom twelve jars, each large enough to hold a person, of the precious olive oil. After her marriage the bride proved to be an excellent cook and each day prepared a special dish for her epicurean husband. One of them, eggplant cooked in olive oil, became his favourite. And he ordered that his wife prepare it each night for dinner. This she did for twelve consecutive days. On the thirteenth, however, the dish was missing from the meal. Asked about its absence, the bride replied, ‘Dear husband, I do not have any more olive oil. You will have to purchase some more for me.’ The Imam was so shocked that he fainted. And since that day, according to the story, his favourite dish has been known as Imam Beyaldi, The Imam Fainted.
2 Medium onions, chopped
½ C Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
3 Medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 T chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Medium eggplants
2 tsp sugar
3 T fresh lemon juice
- Sauté the onions in a little oil. Add the garlic, tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook until mushy.
- Cut the stem ends from each eggplant. Make three lengthwise slits, almost from end to end. With hand, hold each slit apart and spoon the onion mixture into each cavity.
- Arrange eggplants in a baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar, lemon juice, and olive oil.
- Bake, covered, in preheated moderate oven (350°F or 180°C) for 40 minutes, or until tender.
- Serve hot, or as they do in Turkey, cold with yoghurt. Makes 4 to 6 servings.