Turkish Baked Eggplant Casserole with Tomatoes


(Imam Bayildi)

Traditional Imam Bayildi is usually a stuffed eggplant dish. This, I feel, is a little easier to make as the casserole is made in layers, like creating lasagna. Make it ahead and refrigerate tightly covered as the flavors only get better after a day or two. This also makes a great main dish. Barb L.

Serves: 6 generous portions

Ingredients:

2 medium eggplant (or 4 small Italian eggplant), a total of about 1 3/4 pounds, ends trimmed, and thinly sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces lengthwise

About 2-3 tsp sea salt (don’t panic, you wash this off!)

About ¼ cup of you favorite single varietal of Flying Olive Extra Virgin Olive Oil of Choice, more as needed

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 tsp red chili flakes, optional

Pinch of cinnamon

One 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes    

½ -1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley, divided

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly salt the eggplant slices on both sides and allow them to stand for at least 20-30 minutes. (I like to use a colander for this, setting the slices around the sides and on their ends to drain.) Rinse them quickly and pat the slices dry. Set aside.

Using a pastry brush or similar, brush a thin layer of Flying Olive Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large oven proof (preferably cast iron) skillet or in a large skillet. Pan fry the eggplant in batches over medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Brush more oil as necessary between batches to prevent the eggplant from burning, but try not to add too much. The pan only needs to be lightly greased. Remove the eggplant to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion to the skillet and sauté over medium heat until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, chili flakes, and cinnamon. Cook for one minute more, until fragrant. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and spaghetti sauce and simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in half the parsley.

If using an ovenproof skillet, remove 3/4 of the sauce to a bowl, leaving a thin layer behind. Otherwise, add 1/4 cup of sauce to the bottom of a 9” x 13” casserole dish. Arrange one layer of eggplant evenly in the bottom of the skillet or dish. Pour on a layer of sauce, and repeat with the remaining eggplant and sauce, like creating lasagna.

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 minutes before cutting into it. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.

Submitted by Barb L.