The eggplant is native to the region along the Silk Route.... India, Pakistan, and Nepal which reaches all the way to Turkey. I am sure you have seen several varieties of eggplants, long and skinny, purple and big, pink and white and the one I will be cooking today is a small oblong one perfect for stuffing. That is the one on the top middle in the photo.
The actual name for this dish is Imam Bayaldi, which is a Turkish eggplant dish stuffed with tomatoes, onions and garlic. Turkish cuisine is a polyglot of many different cultures... Persian, Central Asian, Mediterranean and Balkan. Along the Mediterranean is where you will find dishes abundant in vegetables, garlic and olive oil. What I love about Mediterranean cooking is that the ingredients are so simple to the staple Mediterranean diet and yet so flavorful. The addition of mint to this dish is an unexpected freshness that creates a symphony of delightful surprise. This recipe comes from an informative cookbook on Silk Road cooking with the history and origin of each dish by Najmieh Batmanglij
6 Italian eggplants, peeled with stems intact
1 cup olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 Make a slit, lengthwise, in each eggplant without opening the ends. Soak the eggplants in a container of cold water with 2 tablespoons salt for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse, pat dry and set aside.
2 In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium heat and slightly brown the eggplants on both sides.
3 Preheat oven to 350°F.
4 Arrange the eggplants side by side on an oiled baking dish.
5 In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add the mint, salt, sugar, ground cumin and tomatoes for the filling and sauté for another minute longer. Remove from heat.
6 Open up the slits in the eggplants with your hands and stuff each eggplant with the onion mixture. Drizzle the remaining oil and ¼ cup water over them. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until soft.