Imam Bayildi (The Imam Fainted!)

Imam Bayildi with rice and a country salad.

SPOILER: This recipe isn’t Libyan.

It’s Turkish, a country that really knows how to eat. But Libya, and especially Tripoli, is a country that has many different cultural influences including Berber, Italian, and Turkish. Tripoli is a port city on the Mediterranean, and that means that people are always coming and going, bringing their influences with them. Layers of history, colonization, and sharing have created Libyan cuisine.

So, although I’m not really sure how prevalent this recipe is in Libya, it’s one I love and know, and I thought I would include it. Also, my mother-in-law is half-Turkish (her father’s side), so I felt that it was an acceptable nod to our family’s cultural heritage.

Now I know not everyone loves eggplant.

Friend or foe?

It’s kind of like you either love it or hate it. Personally, I love it. From the color to the taste, I find it rich and unique. However, a lot of people do not like eggplant, and I think, in part, a lot of that may have to do with how eggplant is prepared. It can be a bitter vegetable if not cooked right, so I’d like to share a few things that I’ve learned along the way cooking eggplant.

First, soak your eggplant in saltwater for 20 minutes.

Give it a little slice lengthwise to let the saltwater in.

This will help to relieve the bitterness. You want to cut the eggplant lengthwise to allow the saltwater to come into the vegetable and do its magic. After the 20 minutes is up, pat-dry the eggplant.

Next, roast your eggplant whole for 25 minutes at 425 F.

Salt and oil your eggplant in olive oil before placing on a baking sheet. Turn once. The eggplant should come out charred, and soft.

While roasting the eggplant, saute the meat and spices.

Thanks to my sister at Mushroom Holler in Argyle, WI, for their grass-fed lamb!

Mince up one small onion, three cloves of garlic, and two tomatoes. Heat your pan on medium and add olive oil. Saute the onion, garlic until translucent. Then add the tomatoes in. Next, I like to add my spices: salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, cinnamon, and chopped parsley.

Finally, add 1lb of ground lamb and brown. I’m really excited about using this ground lamb because it came from my sister’s farm. The whole family has been raising the lamb the past year on their land in Wisconsin. It’s so great to know how much care went into this food.

Let the roasted eggplant cool, then cut length-wise.

Slice open the eggplant, and scoop out the inside. You can save this for making baba ganoush, or other eggplant-dips.

Pack the eggplant with the browned meat.

It should look something like this (although this is post-baking).

You want to be really generous with how much you put in, without having it spill out.

Bake the stuffed eggplant for 45 minutes at 350 F.

And there you have it!

Here you’re marrying the eggplant and meat together. Delicious!

Serve over rice or couscous and enjoy!

I like to add a nice Arabic salad (diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and parsley with lemon and olive oil) on the side. It all comes together so beautifully!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 lb lamb
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 small tomatoes, diced
  • olive oil for frying
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • allspice, 1 tsp
  • cinnamon, 1 tsp
  • red pepper flakes, 1 tsp
  • 2 TBSP parsley, minced
  1. Heat oven to 425 F. While oven is heating, slice the eggplant lengthwise in about three to four places, not cutting all the way through. Soak eggplant in a bowl of saltwater for 20 minutes to remove the bitterness. After 20 minutes, pat-dry. Salt, oil and put on a baking pan. Bake at 425 F for 25 minutes, turning once.
  2. While the eggplant is roasting, heat a pan at medium heat, adding oil. Fry onions and garlic about one minute. Add chopped tomatoes, spices, and ground lamb. Cook until meat is completely brown.
  3. Once the eggplant has cooled, half and scoop out the insides. You can keep this insides for eggplant dip, or discard. Pack the eggplant with the meat mixture. Put the eggplant in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 F.
  4. Serve with rice or couscous and a nice salad! Enjoy!

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