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On our last trip to the Farmer’s Market we also procured some little eggplants. Not the Japanese kind, just small eggplants. I love getting these because they taste so amazing  like eggplant is supposed to taste. Many times when I get the big ones they are full of seeds and the flesh is bitter, even when you salt them and let them drain. But these small ones are delicious and need no salting. One of my favorite things to make with eggplant is Imam Bayildi or The Imam Fainted. Apparently it is the copious amounts of olive oil in the dish that made him faint, but it is not clear whether he fainted from meanness or delight, so the legend says.

I have loved cooking since I was a young girl. I spent many many hours in the kitchen with my grandmother and my mother watching. That is what they say about writers – we are observers first and foremost, as being involved would make us lose our perspective. But I also helped these ladies of the kitchens. I was cooking full meals by the time I was 12 years old. My first love affair with food was with Greek cooking. The first time I had Dolmas, Tzatziki, Melitzanosalata and Feta Cheese I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I understood the magic of food and how it could transport you somewhere else. So began my love affair with food and traveling the world through my palette.

My love of food was noticed early. My grandfather used to love to watch me eat because he could tell how much I enjoyed it. When my friends came over to play, we would experiment in the kitchen, trying to bake cakes- that was before I understood about baking powder and soda, though so you can imagine the many flops! I am not sure when I received this cookbook:

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but I remember always having it -it was one of the first of many and probably still my all time favorite Greek cookbook. The recipes are easy to follow, it is unpretentious , the pictures of the food are drawn and it is where I learned that an eggplant is called aubergine and zucchini, courgette, which made me feel very smart and wordly.

I suggest when making Imam Bayildi, make extra. It is delicious and it goes down very easy!
I welcome comments from all my experts in Greek Cookery out there. I have never seen this dish on any menu at any Greek restaurant I have ever been to…do you have any stories about this dish?

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INGREDIENTS:

4 aubergines (@ 2 lbs)
½ cup olive oil for frying
½ cup onions, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
4 TBS olive oil
1 14 oz can of whole plum tomatoes , chopped( 1 lb of fresh can be substituted, but I prefer the results of the canned better)
1 tsp dried oregano
4 TBS fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp tomato paste diluted in a teacup of hot water
salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:

Rinse and dry the aubergines. Slit them on one side, lengthwise, like a pouch (I never understood this-so I just slit it down the middle, lengthwise – it does not create a pouch, so I scoop out a little of flesh with a teaspoon after they have been fried to create the pouch). Fry them whole, turning them over and pressing them open on their split sides like a kite, until the inside is light golden. Drain on paper towels. Arrange the aubergines side by side in a medium sized oven dish and season with salt and pepper.

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Sautee onions in the olive oil until transparent, add garlic and stir briefly until aromatic. Add tomatoes, herbs and seasoning and cook for about 15 minutes or until sauce is thick and not liquidy.

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Fill the pouch of the aubergines with the sauce (this is why I scoop a little of the flesh out, I add the sauce and then put the flesh back on top of the sauce). Add the cup of water with 1 tsp of tomato paste to the pan. I always sprinkle a little feta on top for good measure! Bake at 350 F for 50-60 minutes. Make sure to serve with bread to sop up the juices or scarpetta as we say in Italian!

Enjoy!