Meatless Monday: Turkish Eggplant Casserole with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi)

Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi) Fat’s gotten a bad rap for a long time in the wellness world. It’s not hard to understand why, given that its own name has become synonymous with muffin tops and cankles. But having been raised on olive oil fried eggs and the philosophy that an avocado a day keeps the doctor away, I’m glad that people are finally putting down the fat-free SnackWells cookies and starting to reevaluate their healthy choices according to a different barometer.

Despite this progress, I still get criticized all the time for slapping the word “healthy” on my recipes alongside a few tablespoons of butter. And I still have to tinker with the amount of oil I use when developing recipes for fitness magazines like SELF, who live and die by the fat grams reported on their nutrition calculators. Since I believe in real, unprocessed food, even if it contains pure fat, it’s hard for me to not feel like a hypocrite when I turn in a recipe for cheesecake with low fat sour cream and fat-free cream cheese, and just one measly tablespoon (if I’m lucky) of butter in the gluten-free crust. But mama can’t afford for her own olive oil budget without these jobs, and sometimes you have to just bite your fat-forward tongue in order to please a client.

Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi) Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi) Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi) If you haven’t noticed by now, or gotten the picture from the above, I view fat as an essential nutrient, and I actively add it to my diet in healthy amounts and diverse forms. Like any food, too much of a good thing is, well, bad. (Pardon the technical jargon). So I do try to switch up my oils from day to day, usually between olive, coconut, sunflower, flax seed, and canola.

But olive oil will always have my heart. Growing up, my mother had at least 5 large bottles of it on hand, and I would watch her blow through them in a matter of weeks. There’s a story in my cookbook about the way she would spoon-feed herself frozen peas in a bath of olive oil so deep, from far away, you’d think she was eating a soup. Despite these questionable habits, my mother remains to this day, the most health-conscious woman I know. And she’s always ten years ahead of the trend, if her pre-millennial love of millet is any indication.

If there’s one trend today that her life-long love of olive oil fits under it’s the newly coined “Mediterranean Diet”—otherwise known throughout eternity as the way Greek people eat. When I explore new cuisines, I love generically asking at restaurants for a side of “sauce” to see what they bring. In Greece, when I did this, what I got was a sauceboat of pure olive oil. And I was more than fine with that outcome.

Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi) Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi) I make no apologies for the not-so restrained amounts of olive oil I add to all my recipes. And despite my justifications above, I certainly make no apologies for adding it in even looser volumes to the recipes I’m attempting to recreate from my Greek travels. I’m just adhering to the trends, people.

One of my favorite dishes from my recent trip was the Eggplant “Imam” from a little Taverna in Hydra. The pan-fried eggplant casserole is technically a Turkish dish, but I saw it on plenty of menus throughout Greece. It’s baked with tomatoes, garlic, and herbs and served room temperature in a lasagna-like slab. One slice is so decadent and delicious in its simplicity, you might almost forget about your old friend from across the Aegean, Eggplant Parmesan. And she was a terrible influence anyway.

There are far worse dishes on the axis of food evil than a plate full of eggplant, olive oil and tomatoes. So for those of you who would rather eat fat than inject it into your face, here’s to a delicious (and healthy!!!) way to get your olive oil transfusion with a side of vegetables.

Eat up!

Xo
Phoebe

Recipes Healthy Turkish Eggplant Casserole Recipe with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi)

Turkish Eggplant Casserole with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Serving Size: 4-6

Turkish Eggplant Casserole with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi)

Inspired by The Greek Vegetarian.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplant, thinly sliced (1/4 inch thick)
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • One 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, divided

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly salt the eggplant slices and allow to stand for 20 minutes. Pat the slices dry and set aside.
  3. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large oven proof (preferably cast iron) skillet. Pan fry the eggplant in batches over medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add more oil as necessary between batches so the eggplant doesn't burn, but try not to have too heavy a hand - the pan just needs to be greased. Remove the eggplant to a plate.
  4. Add the onion to the skillet and saute over medium heat until soft, 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili flakes, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cinnamon. Cook for one minute more, until fragrant. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and simmer until thickened slightly, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in half the parsley.
  5. If using the skillet, remove 3/4 of the sauce to a bowl. Arrange one layer of eggplant evenly in the bottom of the skillet or large casserole dish. Slather with a layer of sauce, and repeat with the remaining eggplant and sauce - like you would a lasagna.
  6. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft and the sauce has reduced. Allow to sit for 10 minute before cutting into it. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

I streamlined this recipe by using an oven proof skillet to fry the eggplant, cook the sauce, and then make the casserole. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, feel free to use a casserole dish instead.

http://feedmephoebe.com/2014/07/meatless-monday-turkish-eggplant-casserole-recipe-tomatoes-imam-bayildi/

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32 Responses to Meatless Monday: Turkish Eggplant Casserole with Tomatoes (Imam Bayildi)

  1. Dena Norton says:

    This looks delicious and unlike anything I’ve ever had. Love it. Pinned it. Sharing it! :)

  2. Frankie says:

    The cinnamon is a surprise, and I guess that’s what makes it Turkish. I love eggplant because it soaks up its weight in olive oil, which is heaven to me. I would eat a whole eggplant myself in a sitting if it were not for the gastric payback. Must try this recipe!

  3. Why have I not cooked eggplant yet this summer?? I have some serious catching up to do (and it will be with copious amounts of olive oil, thankyouverymuch)

  4. Larry says:

    Phoebe – making this tonight. If making 1/2 amt of eggplant, what would you reduce the cooking time to? thanks.

    • Hi Larry! Thanks for making this so quickly! If you’re using a smaller casserole dish, cook time would be the same. The eggplant is pretty much cooked through after the frying process, so the baking really just makes it all the more silky, soft and reduces the tomato sauce. You can’t really under or overcook it too badly. So I’d just check on it after 15 minutes or so and if it’s easily pieced with a fork, feel free to take it out!

  5. Katie says:

    Hi, great recipe but misleading prep time/ cook time. The prep time says 20 minutes (which it roughly is) but you find out once you get to the bottom of the recipe that the dish needs to bake for 45 minutes. Wouldn’t have been an issue, but we had been hoping to fix a quick meal and this wasn’t as quick as it said it would be! 20+15+45 does not equal the same amount of time as 35 minutes!

    • Hi Katie, I’m sorry you had dinner on the table later than expected! It actually says the total time is 1 hour 20 minutes. I usually don’t count the inactive cooking (baking in the oven) under the cook time, just in the total time. Especially in the winter time, stews require many hours in the oven, but it’s not really hands on, so I think it’s helpful to have it separated out. Perhaps I should reevaluate my system though if this is misleading! Sorry you were confused. I hope that you enjoyed the recipe anyway! xo

  6. we just discoverd your blog…so beautiful!
    and this looks very delicious!! oh my, i wish i could eat strawberries. ;)

    xx
    laura&nora

  7. Gorgeous recipe, writing and pics.

    I’ll be trying this recipe during the week as it looks really delicious.

    I adore olive oil and when it’s added to great vege and herbs – life is good.

    Liz

  8. Kim says:

    I’m making this tonight for my boyfriend and I! Hopefully he likes it lol. I hope the eggplant isn’t too mushy after cooking it for 45 mins. We are trying to eat more healthy and the only thing that comes to mind with eggplant is parmasean so this was a breath of fresh air to see! Thank you!

    • I’m so glad you came upon this for a healthy option! It definitely hits those eggplany parm cravings. Let me know how you liked it. I don’t find the eggplant too mushy after the baking, but it’s definitely melt in your mouth soft. I love that though :) xo

  9. Found this on Finding Vegan and I need to go buy eggplant and olive oil to make this! I love how simple it is. My dad is Greek and I’ve spent many a night in tavernas eating imam, but forgot how much I loved it! I can’t wait to pair this with a crusty loaf of bread to soak up all the juices. Hmmm!! :D

  10. Sandra says:

    That looks absolutely amazing!

  11. Steph says:

    This looks amaaazing! How did I miss this post?? and they actually have all of those ingredients here south of the border. Double win! Making this immediately.

  12. Pingback: 6 Strategies to Stop Feeling Crazy Around Food Today | Feed Me Phoebe

  13. Karen says:

    This looks delicious! I’m looking for something I can make tonight, but not eat until later in the week. This seems like a good candidate, and I can only imagine it gets tastier after sitting around for a while. Am I right? (Oh, and I’ll probably use a casserole dish, so I can just store it in the dish I baked it in.)

  14. Sapna Tated says:

    Thanks for this wonderful receipt. In my country India we have similar version of it and popularly know as Baingan ki Sabzi.Hot not spicy the way Indians eat it with Rice.

  15. Nuha says:

    In the Middle East we make a similar dish and use pomegranate molasses and a little heat from jalepenos (or any hot pepper). It’s one of those things you see during casual, family meals and larger get togethers. It’s always a crowd pleaser!

    • mmm I love pomegranate molasses but it’s one of those condiments on my shelf that I never think to use! Do you have any good recipes? I’ve done a beef stew with it in the past, similar to a Moroccan tagine and it was great. Love the idea of jalapenos in this too!

  16. Dhawal Sharma says:

    This was AWESOME. The instructions were of great help. I was surprised by how much food came out of two medium eggplants…it was at least 3-4 meals worth. As a novice cook, I found this one to be pretty do-able and no hangups, especially considering that the taste and presentation (with the parsley garnish against the red tomatoes) were amazing. Thanks for the recipe!

  17. Greg Ledbetter says:

    Hi Phoebe,
    As I write these words, the tomato mixture is bubbling merrily away and the oven is hot and ready. We had this dish a few days ago at a restaurant in Napa, CA and LOVED it (my wife and are vegetarian). I trust your recipe will be as good if not even a touch better. I’d never heard of “Imam Bayaldi” before that meal and was getting just a bit weary of the garlic sauce chinese stir fry and parmigian versions employing the aburgine. Two slight editing suggestions for the recipe: 1) make a note of when to add the salt and 2) when to add the first portion of parsley. Well … gotta assemble and bake, now. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Greg – I’m so thrilled you made this! Thank you for reporting back even before assembly! I updated the recipe with your notes. Thanks for that. Hope you enjoyed the finished product! xo

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