I had it in mind to make this dish for three reasons:
- Eggplants were in season.
- I recently met Zee’s sister — who served me Iman Bayaldi within mere minutes of making my acquaintance, boasting the merits of her version which uses broiled eggplant as opposed to fried.
- I’d never made it before and wanted to learn how.
As I cracked open my Grandma’s binder in search of a recipe, out flew a loose photocopy. I love synchronicity, so you can imagine my delight when I unfolded it to find a handwritten recipe for Iman Biyaldi made with broiled eggplant, ala Zee’s sister!
The author was a woman named Martha Parvanian, and I saw Dorcas Guild written next to her name in my mom’s script, so Martha and my mom (or grandma) must have attended the same church and served in the Dorcas at the same time. (Dorcas societies are local groups, usually associated with churches, known for charitable work in their communities.)
The handwritten recipe had been photocopied, which led me to believe that Martha’s recipe was in high demand by the other church ladies. Satisfied that it was a good one, I went to the farmer’s market, procured three very large eggplant, and got to work on a Sunday afternoon in August.
This version definitely lives up to the dish’s name of Swooning Imam, named after the prayer-leader who allegedly swooned after eating this preparation of eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and onions. I can’t speak to the accuracy of that old story, but I can definitely attest to its popularity with my dad, who is my primary Armenian food critic these days. To put it simply: I made two trays – one for my parents and one for me, and my dad plowed through his tray in a matter of days. After I gave him half of my tray, he came back asking for more, so I gave him my last two slices.
In return I asked him to take a picture before he finished it up, and here is his handiwork:
The last two pieces, shot by my dad, just prior to their consumption.
- 3 large eggplants
- 2 medium onion, sliced thin
- 1 green pepper, sliced thin
- 1 red pepper, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for basting
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt, plus more for drawing water out of eggplants
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 cup minced parsley
- granulated garlic for sprinkling over the eggplant
- Wash and stem eggplant. Cut in ½ inch thick rounds.
- Salt the eggplant slices and let them rest in collander for at least 30 minutes. After the water has been drawn out, rinse and pat dry each slice.
- Dip the eggplant slices in olive oil. Do not be afraid to use a lot of oil as it will help them become tender. Place on a large baking pan and sprinkle with granulated garlic.
- Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, flip, and bake another 15-20 minutes to brown the other side and soften throughout.
- Meanwhile, in a skillet, sauté the onions in the ¼ cup olive oil until limp. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes.
- Arrange the tomato, onion, and pepper mixture on top of each eggplant slice and return to the oven briefly to solidify the flavors.
- Serve cold with jajukh.